Based in Georgia, Southern Folk artist, Jefferson Ross, is a singer-songwriter-guitarist who blends the intimacy of a house concert with a live recording on his latest, Live at Hillbilly Haiku. The incredibly warm collection of fourteen songs includes old favorites, as well as two new tracks, that will have the listener experiencing a range of emotions from laughter to tears. Recently, Ross took the time to check in and speak about the album and more.
You have released four albums throughout your career, is this your first live recording?
This is my first live album, yes. I made a number of records with different levels of production, but my live show is basically me sitting on a stool, playing my guitar, and singing my songs. People often told me they would like to hear that on a record, so I thought why not do it.
Is there a significance to the title, Hillbilly Haiku?
Hillbilly Haiku is a house concert series outside of Nashville run by Denise and Rick Williams. They’ve booked me a few times through the years, and we got to be friends, so I thought doing it there would be a nicely contained way to make a live record. We had a nice group of attentive, warm people present in a really intimate setting.
How did you choose which songs to include on the record?
Whether you play by yourself or with a band, shows evolve, and songs fall out and come back, so this record is a window, a snapshot, of what I’m doing live now.
There are two new songs on the record, one of which, "Dunwoody Train," is an instrumental. You talk a bit about the story behind the song on the recording.
I consider myself a lyricist and tend to write lyric driven story songs, but I also like to play guitar. On live Folk recordings you don’t hear that many instrumentals, so I fooled around with this idea and then the train motif, which I talk about on the record, happened. My daughter and I were taking a tour of this old farmhouse and learned that the guy who owned it was a conductor on the railroad line for fifty years; I thought that sounded like a good inspiration for a song, but I really didn’t want to write one with a bunch of lyrics, so I wrote this fun instrumental.
It's really interesting to me to hear the story behind a song, and even more so for an instrumental. In addition to being a songwriter, you are also a painter. Did you design the album artwork?
My wife actually did the cover, but it was my idea to use the peace sign with the glasses, which has become my little symbol over the last few years. I wear glasses and have a goatee, so it halfway looks like me (laughing). We wanted the cover to be like a Hatch show print, so we went with that retro woodcut look.
It came out really cool. So, what came first for you, painting or music?
The visual art came first. I think if you ask other musicians they would say they had drawn before they played an instrument – it’s less tactilely demanding to draw a stick figure than play guitar. I eventually got involved with music though because a friend of our family worked for The Allman Brothers and I thought that was a cool way to make a living. So, I got a guitar when I was ten or eleven, played in bands, and moved to Nashville because I was interested in writing. I lived there for a long time, writing and working as a sideman, and eventually, I decided I wanted to get back to painting, which I did in my 30’s. I’ve been making folk art and selling it online for about last ten years.
How wonderful to have different creative outlets. The album was recorded at a house concert, but where can people see you play?
House concerts are pretty much all I do anymore. I have a family and a business, so I really don’t go out as much as I used to, but when I do, I’ll book house concerts and festivals, play those, and then come back home so I’m not on the road as much.
Sounds as if you keep busy. Finally, I always like to know what music has your ear.
Well, I mostly listen to stuff from years ago like 50’s jazz, old Bluegrass, Folk, and Rock and Roll. I like some newer stuff, like Jason Isbell, but I tend to listen to older music like John Coltrane where I'm still discovering new layers to songs that maybe I didn’t hear when I was 20 or 30.
For more information on Jefferson Ross visit his official website
Find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Spotify
Purchase Live at Hillbilly Haiku HERE