In 2017, Midland seemed to have risen entirely from the heat of the Texas Hill Country. With Eagles-esque three-part harmonies and a Bakersfield sound not heard on the country charts in decades, the band, consisting of frontman Mark Wystrach, Jess Carson and Cameron Duddy, garnered universal praise – and a unique response: Where the hell did these guys come from? The answer was even more complicated: everyone lived in Los Angeles, Wystrach, a model and actor; Duddy, a music video director for Bruno Mars and others; and Carson, a vintage dealer; had been in and out of each other’s side gigs until Duddy’s wedding in Jackson, Wy. slowed them down enough to see what was what right in front of their faces. A move to Dripping Springs, Texas, and a few lean years in sparse rehearsal spaces would see two Grammy nominations, three LPs and a seemingly endless headlining tour across the US, Canada and soon Australia.
But right now, at this moment, Wystrach is resting: GQ met the 42-year-old in his former and current home of Tucson, Arizona. It was a long road that took him from college football to modeling for Dior, from a guest appearance CSI: Miami to sold-out shows at LA’s Greek Theater. But with the Catalina Mountains in view, a warm cup of yerba mate in hand and his wife Outdoor Voices and joggy Founder Ty Haney asking who’s on the phone it’s a good time to think. The tour will soon resume, and he’ll be flying east to Nashville on November 9 for the annual Country Music Association Awards – Midland is nominated for three, including Vocal Group of the Year. Maybe they win. Maybe they’re just enjoying the party.
GQ: What was your diet like growing up in Arizona? What did you only realize after you left that was unique about it?
Markus Wystrach: I grew up on a certified Hereford thoroughbred cattle ranch, and we also owned a steakhouse, so we ate a lot of steak. But I feel like even before health and nutrition became a big fad, my parents understood that balance was always about. We didn’t really have a lot of processed sugars or foods – everything was either raw or just cooked. And we never had lemonade around. When I was working in the restaurant on the weekends, I was allowed to drink a lemonade. I think I was switched to a clean diet early on if that makes sense. And clean, classic foods are still what attracts me.
Was there ever friction between you and your parents growing up, like a frustration that your friends all had fruit snacks but you didn’t?
I am sure that I had the same desire for sweets as any child. On Sundays we drove to Patagonia or Bisbee or Tombstone [towns in Arizona]or about the [Mexico border] line to Nogales, and that day my parents let us get some. We would come to the old western candy store and I would get the pink peppermints and the sugar granules. My friends still make fun of me for liking the old-fashioned sweets.
Like rock candy?
Oh yeah. [Laughs.]
So you would go to church on Sundays?
Sunday was always a time for family to bond on this day. My mom read the newspaper aloud on the way to church, eight of us sped into a Chevy Suburban. I felt like it was less about going to church and more about having a family brunch together. I stopped going to church when I was 18, but Sunday is still very important to me and my wife. I usually come home from a tour and have her meet me at our favorite Mexican restaurant. We eat micheladas and then we either go hiking or to the museum or to the park. It’s still my favorite day to this day.