Less than two months after NYC indie rock band Wild Pink released its third studio album, A Billion Little Lights, the group has surprised fans with an eclectic collection of cover tracks. 6 Cover Songs includes re-imaginings of songs by Taylor Swift (“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”), Bruce Springsteen (“When You’re Alone”), Carly Rae Jepsen (“Favorite Color”) and Coldplay (“Reign of Love”) — as well as a cover of the Jeopardy! theme song.
For Wild Pink singer-guitarist John Ross, the covers EP quickly following A Billion Little Lights will hopefully allow more listeners to discover the band’s sprawling, heartfelt version of classic indie rock, which has long drawn from folk and country influences and scored a critical breakthrough with 2018’s Yolk in the Fur. Here, Ross answers Billboard’s 20 questions about the covers EP, his musical upbringing and the genesis of the band’s Taylor Swift cover.
1. What’s the first piece of music that you bought for yourself, and what was the medium?
The first thing I bought for myself was the cassette tape of Nirvana’s From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah.
2. What was the first concert you saw?
First show ever was a local skate punk show my friend Sam took me to in the fifth grade. My first show with a famous band was Primus with Buckethead opening, though…
3. What did your parents do for a living when you were a kid?
My folks are retired now, but my dad was an engineer and my mom worked various jobs in the airline industry.
4. Who made you realize you could be an artist full-time?
It was a very long road to cobbling together a living in music/audio and there wasn’t any one person though there were plenty of supportive people along the way. Good family and friends definitely helped me stay on track.
5. What’s at the top of your professional bucket list?
I would love to play a show with Jackson Browne or Bruce Springsteen.
6. How did your hometown/city shape who you are?
I grew up in a small town and always wanted to be somewhere else, which I think probably made an impact on my songwriting. The search for greener pastures has been a pretty consistent lyrical theme. The older I get the more I appreciate being from a small town.
7. What’s the last song you listened to?
“The Great Unwind” by William Tyler.
8. If you could see any artist in concert, dead or alive, who would it be?
I’d love to have seen Bruce Springsteen on the Tunnel of Love Express tour.
9. What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen happen in the crowd of one of your sets?
This didn’t happen in the crowd, but as we were loading out of a show in Columbus, Ohio, a fight broke out on the street from another event and someone started shooting a gun. I don’t think anyone was hit but it was crazy. We just dove behind our van until everyone scattered.
10. How has the pandemic affected your creative process?
I didn’t write or play much music for the first seven months of the pandemic, which is really unusual. I’ve never taken that much time away. I think it was a net positive though, because I recently started writing new songs I’m really excited about. I think taking time off allowed for some ideas to accumulate.
11. What caused the decision to release a covers EP less than two months after the release of A Billion Little Lights?
I wanted to put this EP out for a while, and figured if any of the covers helped someone discover the new album then that’s great. It just seemed like good timing.
12. How were the covers for this EP decided upon?
I had done these covers sporadically over the last few years and they were mostly from themed compilations. Both the Carly Rae and Taylor Swift covers were from compilations where artists covered the songs from Red and Emotion.
13. Out of all the Taylor Swift songs you could have covered, why “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”?
That’s probably my favorite Taylor Swift song, and it was just really fun to strip it down and make it sound weird and sad. The chorus is so incredibly catchy.
14. Alex Trebek sadly passed away last November. Had you been thinking of covering the Jeopardy! theme before then, or was his death the catalyst of this cover?
I covered the Jeopardy! theme song as part of a TV themes compilation. I grew up watching Jeopardy! with my folks and we were all sad about Alex Trebek’s passing. It’s rare to feel that way about a celebrity but I definitely felt connected to him.
15. The EP includes covers of Bruce Springsteen and Carly Rae Jepsen songs. Which artist, Bruce or Carly Rae, would you rather hear cover a Wild Pink song, if you could only choose one?
I think Carly would sound a lot more interesting.
16. What’s your list of karaoke go-to’s — and are any of these songs on that list?
My main karaoke go-to’s are “She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful” by Sammy Kershaw and “If I Could Turn Back Time” by Cher. Good ideas for future covers…
17. What’s one thing Wild Pink’s most devoted fans don’t know about the group?
We are avid Gin Rummy players.
18. What movie, or song, always makes you cry?
Forrest Gump and It’s a Wonderful Life.
19. What’s one piece of advice you would give to your younger self?
20. What do you hope to accomplish or experience by the end of 2021?
I’d like to be recording a new album by the end of 2021.