How does a five year old country rock song end up becoming the biggest - well, only Ė country rock hit of the decade? Simple answer Ė an HBO show about vampires. Sexy, half naked vampires to be precise. But the success of the tv-series True Blood and the subsequent success of its title song, Bad Things, has also made Jace Everett a rising star, both in and outside of Nashville. With his fantastic, hard rocking new album Red Revelations Ė co-written with Chuck Prophet -†and a determination to do things the old fashioned outlaw way, they should be shitting bricks on Music Row right now. Americana UK caught up with Jace about Bad Things, bad country and bad, naked, sexy vampires.
Interview by Soren McGuire
Hi Jace. Thanks for doing this. Been busy since ĎBad Thingsí started taking on a life of its own, especially here in Europe?
Oh absolutely. Iíve worked in and out of Europe for years, but this is the first time Iíve ever had a hit anywhere as an artist. It picked up quite a bit, and in Europe you can actually get airplay with a television hit.
Canít you do that in the States?
Itís very very difficult. The way radio works in the States is so much more segmented by genre. A given station only plays 15-16 songs a week, so itís very hard. Especially when youíre on an independent label as I am. That makes it much more difficult.
Do you ever wake up in the morning, look at yourself in the mirror and go ďholy shit, Iím the guy who wrote that song from True Blood?
No, not quite. I really donít think about it that much. Itís more like ďI wanna go to Norway or the UK and play showsĒ, and from that perspective itís very exciting. Thatís what a hit song does for you, it gives you enough notoriety to go somewhere and sell a hundred tickets and therefore get a booking. But Iím pretty pragmatic, Iíve doing this for a long time, so itís justÖI hope the hit will make people discover the other songs on the album.
But ĎBad Thingsí have actually been around for years, hasnít it?
Yeah. I wrote it back in 2003, and the recording that exists was actually recorded in 2004, so itís been around in my world for a long time. Iíve played it live for five years.
How did it end up on True Blood?
Alan Ball, the guy who created True Blood, discovered it on iTunes and just kinda fell in love with it. He brought it in to the production folks and told them, ďhey letís use this song in the opening credits. Maybe we can find something else later, but this is the kind of vibe Iím looking forĒ. They did such a great job with the visuals, and they decided to stick with it. Itís a great thing.
Do you remember the mood you were in when you wrote it?
To be honest, the song took about fifteen minutes to write, and initially, when I first started working on it, the lyrics were a little more violent. What inspired it was this guy I was playing bass guitar for, and he owed me some money. He wasnít very forthcoming with it, so I wanted to do bad things to him. I realised after a few minutes that it sounded kinda creepy, so I changed it to more of a boy/girl vibe. But I think some of the initial menace that was the intent of the song still comes through.
You written some of the songs on Red Revelations with Chuck Prophet. What was it like working with him?
It was fascinating. I was a fan of him first, Iíve listened to him for eight or nine years, and through the power of the internet, I sent him a message on his MySpace a few years back. He responded, so we began talking. At the time I had written a song that was number one on country radio for an artist named Josh Turner, so I guess Chuck knew I wasnít just some crazy person. We kinda hit it off and talked for a while, and when I started working on this new record, I approached him about writing some songs and producing some songs for the album. He agreed to do it and it was great. Heís a really creative person, really unique. He comes at things from a very eschewed angle, which was what I was looking for on the album.
And besides, heís sort of on the outside country music, approaching it in his own wayÖ
Oh, very much so. And that was my goal, to get a little more outside of it myself. He has a great respect for country music and knows a lot about it, so I knew he could meet me in the middle, and we could find a third way. Which I think is what we ended up doing.
But why not just go down on Music Row, find a famous producer and make a country record that would sell a million copies? You know, like the Toby Keiths of this world do?
Well, I did that in 2005. It sold about 6.000 copies. I used the producer who produces Brooks & Dunn, Lee Ann Womack and Gary Allan. Heís a huge producer whoís written five or six number one songs himself. But I did it, I did it on a major label and did all the thing, but what I ended up with was a record that wasÖok. You know, it had some good songs on it, really well produced. But it just wasnít who I am. What I wound up with now was a record that I took control over, itís something that I believe in more than Iíve believed in anything Iíve ever made. Red Revelations is truly representative of who I am. In some ways it was more work to do it this way, but it was also far more enjoyable. To know that what I was doing was something I could stand behind and be proud of for the rest of my life.
Did you feel you were losing control when you were on Music Row?
I gave it up. I gave up the control. When you work with a multi-national billion dollar company like Sony, they have big check book. If you want some of that money, you have to give some of the authorities. I wound up making Red Revelations for pennies, compared to what they made that other record for, and I think itís better music. Itís sonically superior and definitely more unique.
Does that mean youíve now all but given up on the big check books and the million dollar sales?
You know man, to be honest that was never really a dream I had. I wasnít looking for a record deal when I got it the first time. I was much younger and much less experienced, so I just basically went with what was going on. My dream is to make the best music I can and bring it to as many people I can, but Iíd much rather have a great record that sold smaller numbers than having a mediocre record that was a huge hit. Cause I donít really like mediocre records.
Well, neither do I. And besides, youíre not really the typical run-of-the-mill country singer, are you? Thereís a lot more to your songs than just country
Yeah, definitely. I grew up on country music, but everything influences me. I love everything from The Beatles to Dylan, from U2 to Peter Gabriel. I love Link Wray and Brian Setzer. Thatís really kind of what this album is about. Itís putting all those different things, country, blues, folk, rockabilly, in a pot and coming up with a Red Revelations gumbo! Itís just what feels good. Itís what feels true. You can write a song that sounds like a hit, but that doesnít mean it moves you. It just sounds like something youíd hear on the radio. What I think my little team here has done, is to come up with something youíve never heard before.
Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson turned their back on Music Row forty years ago, and now youíre basically doing the same. Do you in some way consider yourself a country music outlaw?
I totally agree with you, Soren. I donít sound like the record they made as far as the production goes, but I think the spirit of what they did on those records back then, where theyíd just have a bunch of their friends in a room playing music, can be heard on my records. The same with Chuck Prophetís new record, Let Freedom Ring. Thatís the sound of four or five friends down in Mexico City. My record is the sound of a bunch of friends in a studio in Nashville. Yeah, itís in Nashville, but weíre doing things differently than anyone else in Nashville.
Do you think the success youíve had Bad Things will make you reconsider the way you write songs? You mention that you like to go where things take you, but having a hit song must surely in some way make you re-think you career, right?
I had a number one hit for Josh Turnerís album in 2006. It was called Your Man, and that was the first time I ever had a big hit. People would tell me that I needed to write that song again, you know, follow it up. And I tried that, but it just felt fake. I felt like a liar. When I wrote that song, I was truly inspired. Iím not gonna re-write ĎBad Thingsí. I donít think Iím gonna spend a lot of time chasing what Iíve already done. I donít think thatís in my best interest, and I donít think itís in the best interest of my music.
Jace Everettís Red Revelations is out now on Hump Head Records. To find out more about our favourite Nashville ďcountryĒ star, go to jaceeverett.com