I’m currently of the mindset that, if the Mayan are right and the whole shithouse is going up, I’m glad I got the opportunity to lose my virginity, see the Twins win a World Series and hear Jason Isbell’s newest, Here We Rest. Combining elements of country soul and knee-buckling southern rock, Isbell and band have managed to whittle together one of the year’s most heartfelt, intelligent and downright enjoyable records. With SXSW and a North American tour knocking, Isbell took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to talk about rehearsal, Jimmy Hughes and why The Black Keys should’ve just recorded Brothers in his apartment. And be sure to check after the jump for a chance to score Here We Rest on vinyl.
MP3 : Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – Codeine
MOKB: I hate to start here, but Codeine is a phenomenal song. When you come up with a song like that, do you immediately go, “Hey, this is something special?”
Jason Isbell: Yeah, I think so. I think you know when one of those happens. You know it’s better than some of the other songs you’ve written, or at least more accessible. That’s how you know you’ve written something catchy; it starts by sticking in my head before I actually write it down. I just found out they were given that song away, and I think it’s a good idea. People seem to like it a lot.
MOKB: How was it different recording Here We Rest after two years of touring of pretty constant touring? Did you approach it differently?
JI: Not really. I think the formula we have has worked pretty well in the past, and we’re able to make records I feel are good without becoming too frustrated with the process and having everyone pissed off in the studio. I would go in and play a song for the band, and that would be the first time they heard it, and we’d just start playing until we found parts that fit. And it was fun that way. I don’t like rehearsing an album before recording it. That’s just too much time in the studio. And rehearsal sucks. We don’t spend a whole lotta time hashing out the details.
MOKB: How many songs did you being to the sessions?
JI: Pretty much exactly what was recorded for this record. There’s a bonus track that comes with the vinyl and we did a Guided By Voices cover, but otherwise it’s just the song on the record. Kind of a waste of money to record 20 or 30 songs.
MOKB: So no 5-disc Jason Isbell outtake boxset on the horizon?
JI: [laughing] Not on this record. Maybe in the past. If it’s not worthy of being on an album, I try to keep it to myself.
MOKB: You’re a road warrior. Did you ever consider doing this record on the road ala Jackson Browne’s Running On Empty?
JI: I’ve thought about something like that, That’s a really neat way to make a record, and I love that album. The problem is, nowadays, by the time you had the album recorded it would already be all over the Internet. You don’t want to be the asshole who doesn’t let people tape shows. Tapers will pitch a fit, they’re so used to everybody letting you tape everything and put it on the Internet. You can’t have a situation where every song is on the Internet before you put the album out.
MOKB: You recorded Here We Rest in two legendary rooms, Fame Studios and The Nutthouse. Can you talk about the impact recording in these rooms? (more…)