Birmingham Weekly: Jason, thanks for your time. If you will, talk about the writing and recording of Here We Rest.
Jason Isbell: Most of (the songs) are pretty new. We were home a bunch last year so I had a lot of time to write. We started recording in July or August and finished up in September. We recorded it at The Nuthouse in Sheffield and we did some at Fame over in Muscle Shoals.
BW: Do your songs evolve even after you carry them into the studio?
JI: Yeah, totally. We don't rehearse before we record any of the material. I'll come in with songs I've written and play them for the band and we'll go from there, so they completely come to life that way.
BW: How different is being a bandleader compared to your days in Drive-By Truckers?
JI: The pacing is a lot different as far as being on stage and having to actually sing the whole show rather than every few songs. That's really the biggest difference for me because I do sometimes enjoy just playing guitar and being behind the scenes. Other than having to learn to sing for two hours at a time, it's a pretty smooth transition for me. That's due in part to the fact that I work with people that I've known for a long time. Everybody in the band has been friends of mine for many years. The only guy in the band that's not from the Shoals area is Derry (deBorja), the keyboard player and I met him when he was with Son Volt. The rest of the guys all grew up in Muscle Shoals or Florence and we've known each other since we were teenagers.
BW: You grew up in a very fertile music area. As an artist, how do you view the Muscle Shoals scene today?
JI: I'm really proud of what's happened lately. In the past, it's never really been a hotbed of live music. Obviously, there are a lot of writers and studio stuff going on here. I see a lot of people I grew up with having success now and that's really good. I went to high school with The Secret Sisters, though they were a lot younger than me, and we went to church together when we were kids. I've known John Paul White of The Civil Wars for years and years. My best friend from high school is Chris Tompkins, who moved up to Nashville and wrote a bunch of good songs for a bunch of Nashville folks. I've known Dylan LeBlanc for a long time and he's starting to have some success - he's been out on the road opening for Lucinda Williams recently. We're all scattered for most of the year, so we don't wind up in the same place at the same time very often. I'm hoping we can build some kind of live scene in this area to compliment what we're doing in the studio.
Tickets to the 18+ show are $15 and can be purchased at www.zydecobirmingham.com.