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Turnpike Troubadours Had a Triumphant Reunion — Followed by Kyle Nix’s Own Tortured Breakup

If listening to After the Flood Vol. 1 leaves you heartbroken, just know that Kyle Nix was heartbroken when he wrote it.

“I used a paper and pen for therapy,” says Nix, the multifaceted instrumentalist and frontman of Kyle Nix and the 38’s, of writing the album’s 14 tracks — 13 songs and a spoken-word intro delivered by Shooter Jennings. “I was just writing how I felt about what was going on in my life, going back several years”

Most country music fans recognize Nix as the fiddle player for the Turnpike Troubadours. By just about any measure, 2022 was the banner year the Troubadours had hoped for in their comeback. From April to November, they went from dance-hall headliner to amphitheater headliner to arena headliner (Cain’s Ballroom to Red Rocks to Oklahoma City’s Paycom Center, among others), and they completed work on their upcoming album, A Cat in the Rain, set for release in August.

For Nix, however, success was complicated. He continued to grieve the death of his mentor, legendary fiddle player Byron Berline, the previous year. He admitted to long stretches of binge drinking. In summer 2022, his eight-year marriage ended with a divorce filing. That was Nix’s headspace when he wrote what would become After the Flood Vol. 1, out now.

“Having problems in my marriage can be, by itself, an intense ball of fire,” Nix says. “On top of that was the uncertainty of what was going to happen in my life: The Troubadours had stopped playing. Covid had hit the world. It created kind of a vacuum, where I just had to pull myself into the void of writing — and just write, and write, and write about what I was going through.”

It’s the second album under Nix’s name. In 2020, he released Lightning on the Mountain and Other Short Stories as a solo project, though some members of the 38’s played on it. That album, while occasionally personal, is more concept than feeling. Nix himself describes it as a “swampy spaghetti western.” After the Flood, by contrast, is big on feelings, and bigger on music, thanks to the 38’s.

“I’ve been in bands that did get ruined and tainted by ego,” says Ken Pomeroy, who sings and plays guitar in the band. “This band is purely musicians making music, and that’s it. Whatever fits Kyle’s vision and fits the song the best, that’s what happens.”

The 38’s are Nix and Pomeroy, plus Gabe Pearson — another Turnpike player, on drums, veteran bassist Bill Corbin, guitarist and vocalist Adam Duran, and multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Kevin “Haystack” Foster. Nix says his vision for the band harkened back to California roots stylings from the Gram Parsons era. This is perhaps most evident in that Nix, Duran, Foster, and Pomeroy each take turns on lead vocals on the album.

“Our feeling was, just trust our guts and serve the song,” Corbin says. “If it was something that was going to take more than two or three takes, then we were doing it wrong.”

When Turnpike returned, one of the stipulations within the band was a limited touring schedule, which left the 38’s with not only enough time to record After the Flood, but pick up a steady schedule of shows to promote the album this summer, since the Cat in the Rain tour does not begin in earnest until late August. And unlike Turnpike, the 38’s travel with a van and trailer. Camaraderie is as important to individual sanity as it is to the music itself.

“I want to play with people I know and who I’m excited to play with,” says Corbin, who was a long-time bass player for American Aquarium before taking several years away from music until Nix reached out in 2020. “So, it didn’t take a lot to get me in this band. It took a text. Getting to play with Kyle and Gabe, and watching the group evolve into this, has been a blast. It really got me excited to play again, and I’m loving playing again.”

Jennings sets the album up with a “Foreword,” which ends with the phrase “Love: Sometimes it’s heaven. Sometimes it’s hell,” before Nix dives straight in with “Five Foot and Bulletproof,” a pointed, percussion-heavy anthem in which Nix laments, “Your heart can’t break if you don’t have one. Lucky you,” erasing any doubt about the direction this record will take.

The album’s singles have been well-received so far. The current one, “Close the Bets,” debuted in the top 30 on the Americana charts the first week of July. The debut single, “Play Nice,” which Nix says is about “things that eat at you” in a marriage, immediately became a crowd favorite at shows.

Nix also wrote and played for his mentor, Berline, on the album. In discussing it with Rolling Stone, Nix was moved to tears when he talked about ending up with his favorite fiddle of Berline’s after he passed.

“The mentor part of it was, I could learn from listening to him play, or him showing me a lick,” Nix says. “But he was also my best friend. When Byron passed, my wife consoled me. She saw what he meant to me. And it was a shock to me when she said, ‘You know he was your best friend, don’t you?’ It hit me hardest then, because I realized how close we were.”

The album does not sound like a stereotypical divorce album, but marriage, both as an abstract concept and a lived experience for Nix, hangs over it throughout — no place more than in the soul searching of the final track, “Summer Plains.”

“I’d written some pretty spiteful things throughout the album, in the process of trying to find how I really felt,” Nix says. “But I also felt an incredible amount of love for my soon-to-be ex-wife. It was not all bad. I just wanted to wrap my mind around the idea that, even though it didn’t work out, maybe in another life, it could have.”

Nix is quick to note that “Volume 1” is by design. There will be more to come from him and the 38’s, but for now, they have moved beyond creating and are focused squarely on sharing the songs at live shows — for the same reason he wrote them in the first place.


“Playing in front of people and getting it out there, that is also a form of expression and therapy,” Nix says. “It’s cathartic on the inside, but then when you see other people enjoying the songs too, then it starts feeding off of itself.”

Josh Crutchmer is the author of the upcoming book, The Motel Cowboy Show: On the Trail of Mountain Music from Idaho to Texas, and the Side Roads In Between, available for pre-order and set for release on August 10. It is the follow-up to his 2020 book, Red Dirt.

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