Texas by way of Mississippi singer-songwriter-guitarist Jason Eady merges well-crafted stories with stripped-down melodies on his latest full-length, allowing the listener to be pulled in by songs that are both personal, yet universal. The self-titled album, which features guests including The SteelDrivers Tammy Rogers, and Eady’s wife singer-songwriter Courtney Patton, as well as Vince Gill, is due April 21st and in advance of its release, Eady generously took some time to speak in depth about the project, his approach to songwriting, and more.
Releasing April 21st, your latest self-titled record will be your sixth. Did you do anything differently with this one?
Yes, we did. I play a lot with my band, but after shows, we often sit around hotel rooms, back porches, and other different places playing acoustic - and I realized I had never done that with a record before; so the point of this record was to strip everything down. I decided it was time to put my songs, many of which are very personal, together with acoustic arrangements that will support the songs and highlight the lyrics. So, we went into the recording of this album with a full band all unplugged – with the exception of steel guitar because I love it and cannot imagine one of my albums without it - with the idea being that if the power ever went out, we could still play the album.
Once again you worked with producer Kevin Welch and recorded it in Nashville.
This is my fourth time out with Kevin. We made the first two albums in Austin and the last two in Nashville. There are a lot of reasons behind going to Nashville to record the album, but we went there largely because of Kevin’s history. He spent twenty years there as a songwriter, so he’s plugged into that community. And, we got to record it at the studio [Blueroom Studios] where he made his acoustic-based records, so I felt comfortable going into it knowing we were using the same team he used.
Some of these songs I recall hearing over the past few years when I have seen you live. Were they all written since Daylight/Dark or were some you had from years before?
Most were written after, but “Waiting To Shine” I wrote back in 2006. It was on my second album, but this time around we changed the arrangement a lot so that it feels like a brand new song.
Usually, as soon as I get done with one album, I hit a stride as far as writing for the next. I’ve unloaded all I needed to and the pressure is off, which then leads into a pretty productive time for me. I always say though, that when I think a song is done, it’s probably only about 70% done; the last 30% is something I cannot control, it’s something that happens when you get in front of people - it's there that you feel what works and what doesn’t. We [Jason and his wife, Courtney Patton] have a couple of monthly residencies and it’s in these settings where the editing process tends to flush itself out naturally. In fact, there are songs I’ve been playing for ten years that I’m constantly changing the words to when I play them live; they're a work in progress.
Do the songs generally come pretty quickly when you write them?
For this record, every song was written pretty quickly, in about thirty or forty minutes, and is on here pretty much as it came out. I also have learned - and this is truth in songwriting - that the faster they come, the better they usually are, for whatever reason that is. The longer you have to work at it or force it, mediocrity tends to set in. There’s something about inspiration and grabbing it when it’s happening that gets the best results. If it comes out right the first time it’s probably the way it’s supposed to be. Now, there are a few exceptions to that, but that’s usually the rule for me.
The two songs the album is book-ended with are “Barabbas” and “40 Years”. Why did you choose to anchor the album with those two?
I have learned over the years that the first song is important as far as setting the tone for an album because whatever song it is that someone hears first is what they’re expecting for the rest of the album - and if you chose the wrong one, it could set the wrong tone. I really wanted to find the song that represented the album sonically and lyrically and that was "Barabbas". I chose “40 Years” to close because it is a very autobiographical song for me that is even more stripped down than the rest of the album. I book-ended with two acoustic-based songwriter types of songs and structured the rest between them.
“40 Years” is incredibly personal, but so too is “Not Too Loud,” which is about your daughter. What did she think of the song when she heard it?
“Not Too Loud” is probably the most intensely personal song I have ever written and every word of it is true. It was hard for me to sing for a while, but after about three to four months of playing it out, I could get through it.
I had told my daughter there was a song about her on the album, but since she was joining me in the studio for the first time, she did not want to hear it until we got there. She sat in with us while we recorded it and everyone in the room could feel what that meant and I think ultimately, that added to the performance.
I believe that. While it’s your story, it will be relatable to anyone who has a child. While the songs are personal, you also have quite a few that reference religion – “Barabbas”, “Black Jesus,” and “Rain.” Is that something that’s important to you personally or something you enjoy writing about?
I’m a spiritual person, but writing these types of songs is not intentional, however it does find its way in there. I grew up playing in church in Mississippi where we didn’t have a choir, we had a Bluegrass band, so that was my world: a Bluegrass band, Southern gospel hymns, and tight harmonies and whether I mean to or not, it’s a part of what I do.
I like what religion invokes and what it symbolizes. I like the fact that with religion there is built in imagery and with that built in emotions, so you can use fewer words and still get a lot of emotion in a song because there’s a lot more packed into those words with people’s history and association with them. That said, I don’t love being preached to in music, so I try not to do that from my end. For instance, with “Barabbas” we very intentionally didn’t say his name or Jesus’ name or reference the time period in the song. It’s just there in the title so that if the religious approach isn’t your thing it still makes sense from the perspective of dealing with guilt, which can connect people regardless of religious beliefs.
“Black Jesus” is one song on the album that you did not write [Channing Wilson and Patrick Davis penned the song]. What drew you to it?
We were all up late, playing new songs and Channing played that one and it just stuck with me because I lived that story when I was younger. My Dad worked at the battery plant with this guy, JC Cannon, who was a great old blues guitar player from the Delta. I would sit on his porch with him and he would teach me to play guitar and teach me about music. After he was finished teaching, we’d hang out and talk for hours. I always wanted to write a song about that, but it was such a personal part of my life, I wanted to make sure I got it right. In his song, Channing said everything I wanted to say, so I knew that I could try and write the song myself or I could ask to sing his song and put it on the record. So I chose the latter and he was nice enough to let me record it.
Finally, after the trip to Ireland with the Brauns [Reckless Kelly, Micky and the Motorcars], what’s ahead for you? Will you tour nationally?
If we make it through Ireland (laughing) touring nationally is definitely the goal. I love Texas and the music scene there, they’ve given me a career, but the plan is to play our album release shows and tour some there and then hit every part of the country so there’s no region that we don’t get to. I’ll have the full band with me and the nice thing about the arrangements on this album is that we can play all sorts of rooms. We can go into a small intimate listening room or play a big stage and the arrangements will work either way. It’s going to be really exciting to get into rooms we haven’t done before. I’m looking forward to that.
For more information visit his official website
Find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Spotify
Purchase Jason Eady HERE