Six months ago, Natalie and Ryan Houck were still incubating the atmospheric, country-noir music of Honeylark, trying to chart their next steps as musical collaborators, when Natalie took their two children to the park and found inspiration for the band's name in an unexpected place.
“I love birds — I really love owls, but I'm crazy about all kinds of birds,” she said. “My kids and I found a dead bird in the park, and it upset them. They didn't understand it, and I was trying to explain to them that death is just a part of life and it can even be beautiful.”
In an effort to capture that sad beauty, Natalie Houck took a photograph of the bird. Over the course of the next week, her children kept asking to see the picture.
And I thought, ‘What am I doing? I'm macabre-ing out my little children,'” the singer said, laughing. That image proved difficult to shake for all of them, and soon Natalie and guitarist-producer Ryan were free associating, trying to pair the image of the bird with something that sounded sweet.
And I thought, ‘Sugarbird!'” she said. “And Ryan was like, ‘No...'”
Molasses did not work, either, and less said about sorghum, the better.
“Then he said, ‘What about Honeylark?'” she said. “I just knew that was it.”
In retrospect, it made sense that the band's name came after having to explain change and mortality, since Honeylark marks a shift in the Houcks' musical career. In April, following a successful performance by Green Corn Revival at Austin's South By Southwest, the husband-and-wife musicians parted ways with the Weatherford-based cowpunk/countrypolitan band they formed with singer-songwriter Jared Deck in 2009. They relocated to Oklahoma City, and began concentrating on the swooning ballads and haunting imagery of Honeylark, finding inspiration in Nick Cave's murder ballads and the hazy, humid production style of T Bone Burnett.
The three-plus years the Houcks spent with Green Corn Revival resulted in the 2010 debut album “Say You're a Sinner,” a collection of timeless “big sky” country crossed with the energy of classic cowpunk groups such as the True Believers, X and Lone Justice. The band debuted strong new material at its South By Southwest performance, which made the Houcks' departure more surprising.