On August 18th, the Josh Abbott Band will release their fifth album, Until My Voice Goes Out, a string and horn filled collection that offers a hopeful look into the future while embracing life and its potential. In advance of the album's release, Abbott kindly took some time to speak about the album, fatherhood, and more.
While Front Row Seat was laid out into acts, Until My Voice Goes Out consists of two preludes and one epilogue. What influenced your decision to organize the album that way?
Every other album we’ve ever put out always started off with a real banger, an upbeat fiddle heavy Texas Country song that’s fast paced and fun. This time, with strings and horns being the theme of the album, I wanted to do something different.
Until now, “Amnesia” was probably my favorite song we ever recorded, but during the process of recording the album, "Until My Voice Goes Out" emerged as the song that I just loved and the one I wanted to start the album with. When I talked with Rob [Mathes, who composed the strings on the album], I asked if there was any way he could write a couple different twenty to thirty-second string compositions around the song. I liked the idea of having one to start and one to end because I think they set the tone for the record, which is a little more thoughtful in terms of the ballads, but when the horns come in, they take the album in a fun direction.
Being that they’re not the conventional instruments featured on a JAB album, how did strings and horns make their way onto Until My Voice Goes Out?
Dwight [Baker, who produced the record] and I met in December, and talked about doing something different this time around - and once the idea of using strings, and then horns, came up, we couldn’t stop talking about it. We weren’t really scheduled to record until around now, but after that meeting, I called the band and said were recording as soon as we could get in [to the studio].
Until My Voice Goes Out also has a different tone than Front Row Seat. Many times when artists go in different directions with an album, they use a different producer, but once again you worked with Dwight Baker.
Not that the other guys who have produced my records were not my friends, but Dwight and I hit it off. We get along so well, hang out a lot, and talk shit to one another during sports. So, I think the familiarity is there, but if you look at his resume, Dwight isn’t a specific kind of producer, he has a very eclectic production list from Bob Schneider and Kelly Clarkson, to his band (The Wind + The Wave) and Missio. He’s recorded so many different types of music that I thought he could crush this again - and he did. And honestly, if wasn’t for him, this album wouldn’t be this album because he was the one who insisted we do “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” and the one who connected us with Rob Mathes.
Rob, who as you mentioned composed the string arrangements, has worked with an incredible array of artists such as Tony Bennett, Bruce Springsteen, and Sting.
Rob is one of the world’s most respected string composers, and we were incredibly lucky to have him. He not only composed the arrangements, but hired a quartet from the Austin Symphony as well as the Austin-based Groove Line, who spent the last few years touring with Zac Brown Band and Jason Mraz, for the horns. We were very fortunate to work with these talented people who brought experience, professionalism and great sounding material to the table.
While the strings emphasize deeper emotion, the horns bring a vibrancy to the songs.
There’s just something about horns, you put them on anything and they make you want to dance. What’s funny is that once we did Front Row Seat, a lot of people thought our next record would be this darker alt-country sound, and I was really excited about that transition, but once we decided to use horns I found some songs I had written, like "Texas Women, Tennessee Whiskey" and "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot," whose melodies lent themselves to being dance worthy, and we knew they would sound good with horns.
I know they may not be the most intelligent, thought provoking, deep songs, but you know what they are - they’re fun, and a lot of people listen to music because they want to have fun. My fiancé is a great example of that; she doesn’t want to listen to slow, acoustic sad stuff, she wants to listen to music that she can sing along and dance to. There are other people like that too, and who’s to say that their experience in music is any less or greater than other people's. I think people like what they like and that mindset relaxed me a little bit; so instead of us doing some super deep album, we decided to make a fun album that’s very lighthearted and easy to listen to, but also had splashes of emotional heaviness. “Until My Voice Goes Out” is a very deep song about living life the right way and appreciating people before they’re gone, and then we have the two-piece dedication at the end of the record to my dad [David Abbott] who passed away. So, while there are some heavy parts to the album, I think overall the vibe is positive, and I hope people will have a great time listening to the album when they’re on the road or hanging with friends.
The album is bookended with nods to your Dad. The ending, as you mentioned, being a two piece tribute and the title track being the last song that he heard.
We had seen the writing on the wall and knew he was probably not going to make it much longer, so I called Dwight, fully knowing everything wasn’t ready, and asked him to send me “Until My Voice Goes Out” because I wanted my Dad to hear it before he died. I didn’t write that song for my dad, and I don’t want people to fall under the illusion that the song was written for him, but there was something about that song that made me want to have him hear it. It’s very emotional [to talk about], but playing that song for him is a big piece of that song. So, Dwight emailed it, I played it for him and he just looked at me. I think he was very happy with the direction of that song and the new album because I think the last album, with “Amnesia” and “Ghost,” made him sad because I’m his son and he hated that I had to experience all of that. I think he was pretty happy to hear this one.
The album is dedicated to him and he also gets a nod in the artwork, which is stunning.
This is the first time we did an album cover that I didn’t create with the artist beforehand. Every other cover, I would tell whoever did it what I wanted it to look like and we’d go from there. This time, we worked with an artist out of Austin named Gary Dorsey. Gary and I talked about what I wanted and I knew he “got” the songs and the album, so I let him do this thing. He came up with that design of this lone figure carrying all these instruments and put my Dad’s initials on the drum. He envisioned it as me going forward, but carrying the beat of my Dad’s drum which I thought was amazing. I’m excited to see how people react to it, because there’s definitely some greater meaning behind the artwork.
[As we spoke, the adorable sounds of Abbott’s baby girl, Emery Farryn, could be heard in the background.] Have you been enjoying fatherhood?
It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and I think it happened at a great time in my life because I’m older and more mature. The divorce, and the things that led to it, caused me to evaluate how I was behaving as a person. I wasn’t a bad person, but like most other entertainers, I fell into that lifestyle of partying and being around girls and that led to me make decisions I’m not really proud of. Going through that divorce sobered me up literally and metaphorically, and woke me up to what’s important in life and how I wanted to be a better person. And three years later, it fell into place the way it needed to. I was able to meet a girl, fall in love, and now we have baby together. And this little girl…I wake every morning and I’m not even upset she’s crying at 6 or 7am because I’m just in love with her. She’s my person and I’m hers. All my friends from college have kids and I never got it until I had one, and once you have one the light bulbs come on. The amount stuff you have to buy and the amount of patience you have to have for them when they spit out their pacifier every ten seconds (laughing). It’s a completely different world.
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