1. You call this new album “swamp pop” – can you explain what you mean by that?
Yes. I can explain that. I think. Actually, no. No I can’t. I’m not at all sure what I mean by that. But that is exactly the words that explain the music. Like how last time it was “folktronica”. Which was a little bit of folk and a little bit of tronica, well this is a little bit of swamp and a whole lot of pop.
2. How is this album different from your previous albums?
I’ve never made a swamp pop album before. In that way it is unlike anything I’ve made prior to this one. I rap on it. I’ve never done that before either. Like, not just in recorded form, but like, ever. I don’t know if it is rapping, per se, but it would definitely qualify as me talking fast in rhythmic time with the beat. Also, the beats are very urban based. Like, ATL urban. Like, dirty south type urban. That’s pretty different than the previous albums. There’s a lot that is the same though. Like, I’m singing on this one. I’ve done that on previous recordings, so that won’t be very different.
3. What do you believe brought about this different sound?
Definitely living in Atlanta the past four years. When you start to sink roots in a place it is impossible to not take into you what’s in the soil. Atlanta is truly one of the most diverse cities on the planet. It’s a melting pot. It is perfectly American. And the journey from where the first solo album was to where this one is, well, it was literally as close to each other as walking across the tracks. Country music’s roots, the whole Nashville thing, it started in Cabbagetown. It’s an old cotton mill town that the guy who started the mill built for the workers. He would drive up into the Appalachians and load up trucks of folks and resettle them in these shotgun houses he built right by the mill. They were all Scots/Irish and of course brought their music with them, which was where bluegrass came from. Well, when I first got to Atlanta, I lived in the mill there. Turns out, on the other side of the mill, just across the railroad tracks that is now a large CVX yard, is The Old 4th Ward. That’s where Martin Luther King Jr was born and where Ebenezer Baptist Church is. Also turns out, the banjo is an African instrument. Also turns out, the fiddle is an African instrument. These things could not be ignored. It was impossible, however, to see that the timing for such an exploration would be so appropriate.
4. How does this new chapter of music speak to your evolution as an artist?
I think authenticity wins over perfection every time. And that’s what I try to be most when making stuff, is to get what’s inside, outside. So, where my head goes my heart goes and where my heart goes the music goes. Or at least that’s how it seems to me. I think you can listen to the music of these two first solo albums and read the lyrics and pretty much get everything about my life the last four years.
5. What was your favorite part about making this new record?
Working with my favorite people ever. Seriously, I would go over to someone’s place to work and we’d wind up just laughing for most of the time and then panic and be like, argh! nothing got done, we should try to do something, and then we’d write and record a song immediately and be like, what the what?! I can’t even tell you how many times I’d walk in the door and say, ok, we have to get stuff done, seriously. And whatever we do, we CANNOT write another song. And then we would laugh and then panic and say, ok, we have to focus, and not write another song, and then we would write another song. That was just the best!
6. What do you hope people get out of this new record?
I hope it is a tad subversive in it’s insistence that the lines between us are really blurry. I grew up in Texarkana Texas and it is a town divided. Half of it is in Texas and half of it is in Arkansas. Stateline Avenue splits it right down the middle. That street terminates at the steps of the city post office and it has a sign with Texas hanging on one side and Arkansas on the other. There is a line there at the foot of the sign and you can place your feet where one is on either side of the line, one solid in Arkansas and one solid in Texas. I’ve stood right there. And you know what? I didn’t feel a thing. It was just a painted line. Or maybe just some railroad tracks.
7. Tell me, what was is like shooting the video for “Run Devil Run”?
A dream come true! My favorite movies growing up where Star Wars, Rockys, Chariots of Fire, and Smokey and the Bandit. Well, in Smokey and the Bandit, the plot is Burt Reynolds, The Bandit, has to get from Atlanta, GA to Texarkana and back in 23 hours to win a bet. I wanted a black Pontiac TransAm so bad and it felt as likely a thing to ever get to drive as it would to ever get trained by Yoda. So, you can just imagine how stupid happy I was during that shoot.
8. What inspired the song, “Run Devil Run?”
The swamps of Louisiana.
9. Why select “Run Devil Run” as the first single off the new album?
I felt like it would give everybody a good peek at what was coming. Swamp pop is hard to explain. Best just to get a little whiff.
10. What’s next for you?
World domination. You’re welcome to put me as a write in November.