What’s in a name? In 2005, a band innocently casts itself as “Girls, Guns & Glory,” a tribute to the great “singing cowboy” Gene Autry. At the time, the name was catchy and slightly badass, reflecting the true outlaw country spirit that characterized the band’s sound.

Over the years however, the name became an issue, as many felt uncomfortable with the “guns” reference. So last week, they announced a name change … Girls, Guns & Glory is now Ward Hayden and the Outliers.

“It really has been a long time coming, we’ve been strategizing for a while,” noted Hayden in an interview last week.

Other bands have done it, but usually earlier in their careers … like the Beatles, who started off as the Quarrymen. Or Led Zeppelin who were almost called The New Yardbirds. (Did you know the Barenaked Ladies were once known as Free Beer?) But we digress…

Shifting Values

Times have changed, and the band was actually losing gigs because of their name. Hayden explained…

“I certainly had a sentimental attachment to the name. It was something that we’ve been holding on to for a long time. Truthfully, we flirted with changing the name every year for the last 7 or 8 years. Every year on average we lost maybe 1 to 3 shows from our inception even 12 years ago. One of the first big events we lost was a good paying corporate event. Someone took issue with it and they cancelled with us the morning of the show. The last 6 months we were seeing an uptick in shows that have been booked, being cancelled.

“We also wanted to represent ourselves in a way we could feel proud of. You want to be able to have a name that people aren’t afraid to say at the dinner table. The name’s come a long way from the Gene Autry westerns that inspired it. Truthfully, if I was booking, I think that I might even hold some reservations,” admitted Hayden.

The “brand” change won’t be easy, but the Boston-based band isn’t afraid of challenges – I mean, a traditional country act from Boston? Still, they’ve built a huge following over the years.

“For about a five-year period we were doing about 200 gigs in the US and Europe each year; this year, we’ll probably do about 100 shows in the states and about 40 shows over in Europe. We’re really hoping to get the word out (about the change) through the press and social media and we have a publicist coming on board in about a month,” explained Hayden.

New Music

 The band has a new EP releasing in September, a follow up to their 2016 album Love and Protest, universally admired as a great country-rock album with a message. Although the band is not directly driven by politics, Hayden is clear about one thing.

“A big thing for me, especially after last couple of years, is that I would like to see a return to decency,  of people being kinder to each other, putting more good out there rather than seeing people in positions of leadership that will refer to women publicity as a dog. I just think that lacks decency.”

Hayden further explained that he’s greatly influenced by Autry’s “Cowboy Code,” a set of rules to live by based in civility and respect for others. Click here to read the code on the band’s website.

A bit tongue-in-cheek, the title of the new release is Can’t Judge a Book. Hayden explained “we spent years with people kind of judging a band by its name without looking at the inside, we decided to have a little fun with the title. The EP has six cover songs that one of us was inspired by at one time or another. There’s also one original that is a full band co-write.”

Rhythm and Roots Festival – Labor Day Weekend

It’s the band’s first time playing the Rhythm and Roots Festival. “We’ve heard such great things about Rhythm and Roots and we know a lot of people who attend every year who are such great dancers. I don’t know what it is about Rhode Island and where these people learn the “two-step.” Every time we play Rhode Island, there’s a great group of people that come out. We certainly want to cater to the dance crowd and have a high energy set that gets the place moving.”

Although they’re still listed as Girls, Guns, Glory on the Rhythm and Roots Festival Schedule, don’t miss Ward Hayden and the Outliers next Friday. Details here.

Ken Abrams

Lifestyle Editor Ken Abrams writes about music and more for What'sUpNewp, Providence Monthly, SO RI, and The Bay. He DJ's "The Kingston Coffeehouse" Tuesday nights, 6-9 PM on WRIU 90.3 FM.