They could just as easily have been called You're the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly or Dropkick Me Jesus Through the Goalposts of Life. After taking up the challenge in 2013 to form a country-folk group to play a handful of songs from O Brother, Where Art Thou? at a show, four jazz-trained Australian musicians started scratching their heads about a band name.
They googled "best/worst country song titles". After a slight tweak to George Strait's "All My Exes Live In Texas", they had a winner.
For Elana Stone (accordion), Katie Wighton (guitar), Hannah Crofts (ukulele) and Georgia Mooney (mandolin), who had all learned classical piano, this was uncharted territory. With only four weeks until the performance, three-quarters of the band had to find their way around new instruments. But it worked and everyone marvelled at the way their voices sounded together.
Three years later, All Our Exes Live In Texas have a debut album called When We Fall and four solo careers on the backburner.
Sitting under a tree in a Newtown cemetery in Sydney's inner-west, Stone and Wighton recount the unorthodox path they've taken to this point. For example, few groups can say they have played with both an AC/DC tribute band and the Backstreet Boys. Of their stint on the latter's 2015 Australian tour, Wighton says, "Well, Jesus, that was just about the coolest thing in my entire life."
They put their name forward almost as a joke, thinking there was no way a little known group would get a look-in with the biggest boyband of the Nineties. Then three days before the tour, they got the call. It was happening. "We got all this online trolling from Backstreet Boys fans saying, 'Why didn't we get Jess Mauboy?' and 'We wanted Guy Sebastian!'" says Wighton.
"My favourite was 'I'll be at the bar getting UDLs when you're playing!'" says Stone.
But as the tour progressed, they won over audiences with their stirring harmonies, tales of heartbreak and endurance, and wry onstage patter. They even bonded with the Backstreet Boys and can report that Howie is the sweetest and chattiest of the bunch.
The four women have their own soccer team, called Such Good Friends, so when it came time to make the video for their single "Tell Me", they knew exactly what they wanted. Drafting in Grinspoon's Phil Jamieson, comedian Lawrence Leung, Home & Away actor Jackson Gallagher and Stone's brother Jake (ex-Bluejuice) to play their ex-boyfriends, they intercut scenes of the break-ups with a comically violent soccer match between the two sexes.
"I'm clumsy and I tend to fall down a lot when we play soccer," says Wighton of her on-field skills. "Elana's really fast and her tactic is to run straight at other players and scream at them."
"They call me The Butcher," says Stone.
The quartet feel they have different strengths within the group, too.
"I'm older than the other girls, so I feel very confident in the sphere of music and performance," says Stone. "But the worlds of administration and IT and business elude me quite strongly. And these guys are whiz kids at all that stuff. For example, Katie's our accountant and book-keeper."
"Hannah works at Music NSW and she's just a gun when it comes to management and industry stuff," says Wighton. "And Georgia has an incredible aesthetic and she's a perfectionist. She slaved over the graphic design for our album cover and she'd never done that before."
"It's a lot of work when you're promoting yourself as a solo artist and it feels a bit narcissistic and navel-gazey," says Stone. "To have three other women who are equally invested and have other skills that you don't have is a complete relief. We're like this problem-solving force with Exes. It feels a bit like a superhero thing."
From issue #785 (April 2017), available now.
Topics: All Our Exes Live In Texas