Hi Jace. Thanks for doing this. Been busy since ‘Bad Things’ started taking on a life of its own, especially here in Europe?
Oh absolutely. I’ve worked in and out of Europe for years, but this is the first time I’ve 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.
Can’t you do that in the States?
It’s 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 it’s very hard. Especially when you’re 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 “holy shit, I’m the guy who wrote that song from True Blood?
No, not quite. I really don’t think about it that much. It’s more like “I wanna go to Norway or the UK and play shows”, and from that perspective it’s very exciting. That’s 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 I’m pretty pragmatic, I’ve doing this for a long time, so it’s just…I hope the hit will make people discover the other songs on the album.
But ‘Bad Things’ have actually been around for years, hasn’t it?
Yeah. I wrote it back in 2003, and the recording that exists was actually recorded in 2004, so it’s been around in my world for a long time. I’ve 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, “hey let’s use this song in the opening credits. Maybe we can find something else later, but this is the kind of vibe I’m looking for”. They did such a great job with the visuals, and they decided to stick with it. It’s 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 wasn’t 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, I’ve 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 wasn’t 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. He’s 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, he’s sort of on the outside country music, approaching it in his own way…
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. He’s a huge producer who’s 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 was…ok. You know, it had some good songs on it, really well produced. But it just wasn’t who I am. What I wound up with now was a record that I took control over, it’s something that I believe in more than I’ve believed in anything I’ve 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 it’s better music. It’s sonically superior and definitely more unique.
Does that mean you’ve 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 wasn’t 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 I’d much rather have a great record that sold smaller numbers than having a mediocre record that was a huge hit. Cause I don’t really like mediocre records.
Well, neither do I. And besides, you’re not really the typical run-of-the-mill country singer, are you? There’s 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. That’s really kind of what this album is about. It’s putting all those different things, country, blues, folk, rockabilly, in a pot and coming up with a Red Revelations gumbo! It’s just what feels good. It’s what feels true. You can write a song that sounds like a hit, but that doesn’t mean it moves you. It just sounds like something you’d hear on the radio. What I think my little team here has done, is to come up with something you’ve never heard before.
Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson turned their back on Music Row forty years ago, and now you’re basically doing the same. Do you in some way consider yourself a country music outlaw?
I totally agree with you, Soren. I don’t 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 they’d just have a bunch of their friends in a room playing music, can be heard on my records. The same with Chuck Prophet’s new record, Let Freedom Ring. That’s 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, it’s in Nashville, but we’re doing things differently than anyone else in Nashville.
Do you think the success you’ve 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 Turner’s 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. I’m not gonna re-write ‘Bad Things’. I don’t think I’m gonna spend a lot of time chasing what I’ve already done. I don’t think that’s in my best interest, and I don’t think it’s in the best interest of my music.
Jace Everett’s Red Revelations is out now on Hump Head Records. To find out more about our favourite Nashville “country” star, go to jaceeverett.com