The story of the great country folk heroes of our day—the Willie Nelson’s, the Dylan’s, Mr. Cash—is in how each one spun the brutal truths of our lives into gorgeous pieces of art through words and sounds. When musicians like these come along, our only options are to give into the feelings of pain, or joy or happiness their work brings about. Jamestown Revival is made up of two gents from Texas who’s music moves and provokes. Here’s our conversation with Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance, and if you couldn’t tell by their namesakes—they were born to do this.
The Soul Dynamic: What or who have been your biggest influences in pushing you to become artists and make music?
Jonathan: I think it started out with the real confidence that my parents instilled in me. Having a good family support system definitely gave me the courage to go out and do and try to make a career out of music because it’s a very intimidating thing to do. It’s a career with a lot of highs and lows and peaks and valleys, and having a really solid support system like my parents…I definitely credit them for telling me over and over again that you can do whatever you want to do if you work hard enough. That really stuck with me. My Dad played guitar and inspired me to start playing and creating music, and he was a big influence on me. You know as I was growing up and discovering things, there was a movie called Into the Wild about Chris McCandless and I really got into the whole Chris McCandless cult for a while, I thought his story was so inspiring and still do. From there I discovered Louis L’Amour , you know the old Western fiction novelist, I read his autobiography, his memoirs and learning about these troubadours who travel, these real independent spirits, people who aren’t afraid to be individuals, I got really inspired. And then also of course musicians, the great song writers who tell stories about their journeys, their travel, their coming of age; that and mother nature in general, a real spiritual connection with mother nature, a nurturing connection, that all inspires me.
Zach: That pretty much sums it up.
The Soul Dynamic: You guys just talked about mother nature, the Utah album is fucking amazing and I was reading about how you guys locked yourselves up in middle of nowhere and just went at it creating music, can you tell me about that process? What was that like, what were the steps that made you say ‘Hey let’s just get away from everything and knock this out?’:
Zach: I don’t know how the idea exactly came about, but it was sort out of necessity, we were at a point where we had the songs we wanted to record and there was nobody there really interested in recording us. We had reached out to some producers that we hoped may have found interest in the music and could take on the project, but didn’t really have any luck with that. We were fortunate enough to have talented friends, and so we sold everybody on the idea of going and living in this cabin for two weeks and recording. We got all the gear together from a friend who has a studio just outside of Los Angles and we packed up his gear, took a tape machine, and loaded up this Ryder truck and drove out to the mountains of Utah to set up and start getting down. There we started playing with different sounds, and then the band came out and probably recorded for 4 or 5 1/2 days. It was a really cool you know, it kind of all fit what John was talking about earlier, being set in nature and the adventure of it and going about it on your own. We had to learn a lot on the fly, but it was a really cool process, it was as much discovery as it was creation and it ended up being a really perfect, awesome experience that led to a record being made. We certainly gained a lot of knowledge in that room and that will certainly help us moving forward.
The Soul Dynamic: It’s one of those albums that just pops. You know how sometimes albums grow on you, Utah just gets you immediately and hooks you in, and your just like, ‘I need to listen to that again.’:
Zach: I think we got lucky in a lot of ways because we were doing these live takes to tape in this cabin, and you would hear the cabin a lot and the space and there’s bleed in all the microphones, and all that gave it character, there’s certainly things we would change if we could back, but all and all we’re pretty proud of what came out of it.
The Soul Dynamic: We like to do this thing called Versus. I’m going to ask a couple quick questions comparing two things, just fire back which one you prefer:
Fried Chicken vs. Sushi | Zach – Fried Chicken.
Willie Nelson vs. Bob Dylan | Jonathan – Willie for sure, you know Bob Dylan is obviously a wonderful and prolific songwriter, but Willie just moves me more.
Zach: I back up that opinion.
Texas vs. Cali (This one might be a no-brainer) | Zach – I’m mean we’re bias, Texas will always be number one for us. It’s a big part of who we are.
Jonathan: Texas is home, we were born and raised in Texas and that’s something you can’t change.
Casino vs. Goodfellas | Zach – Damn, that’s tough. Gut, I gotta go Goodfellas.
The Soul Dynamic: You guys touched on it a little bit earlier, you know the creative process isn’t necessarily easy and everyone has their own way of going about it and grinding out work, what is it about your process that makes it successful and how do you push through challenges when the music isn’t coming out the way you want it to be?
Jonathan: It’s just blind perseverance. It’s having the tenacity and the fortitude to keep going back and trying different things and keeping the mental; it’s almost like a mental game, a mental fight to keep inspired, to keep your heart in it, to stay emotional about it and not let it go sterile. And sometimes it’s not working, and it’s like ok, ‘let’s totally strip it down and go back to it, approach it with a fresh head again, let’s mean it and let’s really give it a sincere shot again and see if we can spark something. I think a lot of it is being able to re-approach it with sincerity in a different way.
Zach: Yeah, you can’t squeeze it too tight and when it comes to writing, and Jon is pretty good at this, sometimes you have to let things go. If it’s not working, it’s not working. You want everything to be the best yet, but sometimes for whatever reason, it doesn’t translate when you’re trying to record, or it’s not coming out right when you try to write it. There’s always another one that’s the cool thing about it, you can pull it out of thin air if you’re lucky enough.
The Soul Dynamic: Cool, it’s definitely not easy, if ever. Ok, so music for the most part is best experienced live. You guys are on the road right now you just played Chicago, for you guys what’s the most memorable performance you’ve either had or saw for yourself?
Jonathan: Conan or Craig Ferguson, doing the late shows, those are pretty memorable.
Zach: The tours been really something cool, this is our first headlining tour and were 2/3 weeks in and the fact that people are coming out in these different cities, where it used to be like 9 people or hardly anybody, and now we’ve had a couple sold out shows, those nights are really special to us. There’s moments when we have to step back and ask, ‘Wow is this the right venue, did people show up for us?’ It’s been cool to have people singing lyrics to songs, singing along with us when we’re playing, we’re pumped.
The Soul Dynamic: That’s not surprising, Jon you mentioned it when you were talking about Willie, I think your music moves people in that way.
Jonathan: I think as a songwriter that’s really the ultimate barometer for success, whether or not…your bottom line is really getting through to people, moving people. If the music is, then it’s working. If it’s not, you got problems, you’re dead in the water.
The Soul Dynamic: If you guys could hang out with anybody dead or alive in any era, who would it be?
Zach: Teddy Roosevelt would be pretty high on my list. He’s was an interesting fellow. Jon, how about you?
Jonathan: God man, I think I might go 2014 years back and hang out with Jesus. I think that would be pretty cool.
The Soul Dynamic: That’s awesome, yes. Who’s your favorite artist right now guys?
Jonathan: Imma go with Willie Nelson, he’s still making music.
Zach: That was one that came to my mind. We love Ryan Adams. There’s some great music out right now, but we kind of stick to the older stuff.
The Soul Dynamic: If you guys could create any art that’s not music, what would that be? What’s your side passion, if you have time for one?
Zach: Jon’s got 50, so he has a harder decision than I do.
Jonathan: I think it would be working with metal or wood.
The Soul Dynamic: Working with your hands?
Zach: I don’t if it’s necessarily an art, but I think I could get into gardening in a really unhealthy way.
The Soul Dynamic: I think that’s art, if it gets you away from the shit. Alright, what is the one thing you want people to take away from your music?
Jonathan: That sometimes simple is good.
Jonathan: There’s beauty in simplicity.
The Soul Dynamic: Yes. This is the last question we always ask everybody, what inspires you?
Zach: Family, nature, good literature. Those are my three, Jon.
Jonathan: Melody inspires me.
Zach: That’s a good one.
Jonathan: When I hear a good melody I get inspired. That’s what really sets a spark with me.
Zach: And in hearing good music, listening to people like Willie Nelson. Sometimes when I listen to Willie, I love it so much it hurts me, or it angers me: cause I want to be able to create that well. That’s very motivating, other musicians.
Jamestown Revival’s nature inspired debut album Utah is out now. They played a kick ass show last night at the Highline Ballroom in New York City and you can click here for more info on catching them during this tour. Check out our review of their show this Friday to see how their words came to life.
Interviewer | Rene Ramirez
Photographer | Josh Franer