Jason Boland Talks Rancho Alto, The Mars Volta and Country Music Being Dead [VIDEO]
I had the great pleasure of sitting down and talking to country music star Jason Boland on Thursday, August 25th, inside the Bear studio. Jason and I talked everything from his new album, Rancho Alto, to heavy metal music, to country music being dead as we know it. Here is the interview, in its near entirety, from that day. I left out our talk about Oklahoma State football so Texas Tech fans wouldn't be mad.
Also make sure you watch two 99.5 The Bear exclusive performances after the interview.
99.5 The Bear: The new record comes out October 4th and it’s Rancho Alto.
Jason Boland: Ten 4, good buddy. We went in to Yellow Dog Studios with Dave Percival and Lloyd Maines and tried to track it. We usually try to keep the bottom tracks as live as we can and get in there with some drums. We had Riley Osbourne on the keys and he’s just an Austin piano legend who has played with everyone. We got in there and tracked 11 songs and that’s about it. It went really fast. We don’t mess around much. I think we were tracked in three or four days.
99.5 The Bear: What are the differences between this new album and an earlier album like Pearl Snaps?
Jason Boland: You know I can’t put my finger on the differences. What I’ll hear sometimes and it will be enjoyable to me and then what I hear sometimes is me saying I’m so glad we moved on from that. All of our albums are basically acoustic albums. That’s the fundamental. I think this one is even heavier handed on that than Comal [County Blues]. I say that but then I go back and listen to Comal and it will be that way. Hopefully the most of the differences will be just the growing up; natural progressions.
99.5 The Bear: Can you see this album of having more political tensions than others?
Jason Boland: Yeah, it’s got some definite antiestablishment sentiment on it.
99.5 The Bear: How do you think people will take that?
Jason Boland: I don’t know in these days. I want to think that people want true freedom and want to really stand up but I’m starting to find out that most people will take safety over freedom. I think it was Franklin that said people that will do that don’t deserve either.
99.5 The Bear: Your first single is Mary Ellen’s Greenhouse. What is the story behind that song?
Jason Boland: Mary Ellen was a friend of mine that I mention in the song where I sing “Al and Joe boys, how’ve you been?” Alex played drums and Joe played bass. They’re green house was the place we could turn it up to 11. His folks didn’t care and we could make a bunch of noise and Mary Ellen would cook for us. Mary Ellen passed recently and the song is first and foremost inspired by her and our coming together as kids learning to play music. It’s also just about the person who just takes care of the jam and takes care of the musicians. I mention honey mead in it, she wasn’t serving us honey mead back then, but I’m making mention to a place in Stillwater called the farm where we all jammed. It’s the hippie gals that would bring us food and honey mead to keep the jam going. Musicians get tired and hungry and the people who keep it going are angels.
99.5 The Bear: What do you think of country music today?
Jason Boland: Country music is dead. D-E-A-D, buried and might have died when Keith Whitley passed. That’s not to say people aren’t out there making country but in the media, that, I can’t stand it. I don’t care who hears it. I’m trying to find the way forward back and try to get music that sounds honest even if it has its own quirks and imperfections. I sat there and watched the soul be amputated from any form of rural music that’s being put out there. There are still people making country music and hardcore honky tonk and hardcore bluegrass. I’m only referring to what’s really being put out there. If you asked a 12 of 13 year old kid these questions the answers you would get would be bad. None of them would know who Bill Monroe is or anything to do with where it came from. There’s also no one representing that authenticity and I’m sure some of us can’t. We didn’t grow up the way those folks grew up.
99.5 The Bear: So do you ever see the revival of traditional country in our lifetimes?
Jason Boland: I hope so and I hope it’s just not nostalgia. I hope it’s just not a campy throwback. Now they say “Look at what we do in the backwoods and kicking around dirt and stomping in the mud and shooting guns.” Those are things I’m all for, don’t get me wrong. I think everybody should have a gun on them at all moments; it makes everyone polite. It’s just the way it’s presented is just so dumbed down. It’s all about nostalgia and remembering the good times. Come on, let’s talk about some stuff. Where is the meat on this bone?
99.5 The Bear: Who’s doing it right?
Jason Boland: In this scene, I think Eleven Hundred Springs has always done it right. You’ll always hear people say that Alan Jackson tried to keep country around. There are a few people that tried to keep country but those guys are trying to fight a losing battle. That’s all it was. Now all these two girl and one guy bands or two guys and two girls bands are … I can’t tell you what I think.
99.5 The Bear: Outside of country, who do you really like?
Jason Boland: Three of my favorite American rock bands are The Mars Volta, Tool and Queens of the Stone Age. I’d give honorable mention to Mastodon, Clutch and Isis. I guess Isis disbanded though. I’m a metal head at heart. But if you go home and look at my vinyl I’ve got Hank Jr. Hag and more Chet Atkins on vinyl than anyone I know. Anything that makes the tuning fork go off. I listen to Immortal Technique and Dead Prez or some hip hop that comes from somewhere.
99.5 The Bear: We share a common love for The Mars Volta. That’s a group of guys that really just care about one thing, the music. They’re always on the road and always making new music.
Jason Boland: Yeah and it keeps just getting… I don’t want to say better, but Octahedron and Bedlam in Goliath were unreal. Both of them.
99.5 The Bear: And every Album sounds different. From De-Loused in the Comatorium to now.
Jason Boland: Did you know Flea played bass on that album?
99.5 The Bear: No I didn’t. That’s pretty awesome though. I think that album may have the best intro ever.
Jason Boland: That’s one of the greatest albums ever.
99.5 The Bear: Do you think everything going on in the world is really changing the face of music?
Jason Boland: It has to. They say art reflects life but when you use the word “art” you open up a whole different subjective can of worms. Then someone will say no it’s objective because you either know it or you don’t. It has to represent that. That’s what so horrible with music right now. Exactly. It doesn’t represent all the viewpoints and there’s no competitive view…for anything. I’m not saying you have to be anti or pro. You can’t even be indifferent. It definitely should change with the world. It changed my music. The song “Hell or Bust” or the song “Something You Don’t See Every day,” there’s references to little things on how I see the world going down. It’s funny, you throw those out there and they’re still open to other people’s interpretations. You can rack my brain sometimes and hear it sometimes saying I hope someone doesn’t take that the wrong way but… who cares.
99.5 The Bear: So the new album comes out on 10/4. What’s after 10/4?
Jason Boland: After 10/4. In December we are taking some time off. I thought about taking a vacation; maybe head over to Europe. Then first of January will be Music Fest and we’ll head up to Steamboat. Then I’m sure by next fall we’ll start looking for the next project. I think this new album will ride us for a while. It’s got about four or five new singles that should hit the radio.
99.5 The Bear: Have you already picked out the next single?
Jason Boland: No, but I kept my hands off of this album. They came to me and said “What about Mary Ellen’s Greenhouse?” and I said fine. I really, on this album, tried to do what I had my control over and you know that by now. It’s the songs you do, how you rehearse and how you get them down. That’s what I have control over. There’s one on there that’s called “False Accusers Lament” that you’ll probably hear on the radio. It’s a real Texas Country sounding song. I’m sure by the time the record releases we’ll have another one out.
This first video is the first single off his new album, Rancho Alto, entitled "Mary Ellen's Greenhouse."
The second song he performed is a song called "Electric Bill."