Jason Isbell talks fatherhood, success and the Braves


Jason Isbell talks fatherhood, success and the Braves

Parklife with Jason Isbell, Strand of Oaks, Chris Stapleton and Natalie Prass. 3 p.m. Oct. 18. $45-$125. Piedmont Park, 1342 Worchester Drive N.E., Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000, parklifefest.com.

Jason Isbell was born and raised in Alabama and has called Nashville home for several years, but his name is just as synonymous with Georgia as anywhere else — he spent six years with the Athens-based group Drive-By Truckers and considers Atlanta a home away from home.

The alt-country singer-songwriter, who has been steadily building a fan base for his solo work since parting ways with the Truckers in 2007, said there’s one big difference he sees at his Atlanta shows these days.

“Well, there’s more people there now, so that’s good,” Isbell said with a laugh from his home in Nashville. “Honestly, Atlanta was really one of the first places that we ever had any success when I was with the Drive-By Truckers, and then, especially, when I had the solo project, too. We could always count on a good crowd at the Earl or Star Bar or even on up to the Tabernacle or the Fox. … I would consider an Atlanta show as much of a hometown gig as anywhere, really, for me at this point.”

Isbell will get the chance to play a “hometown” show as the headliner for Parklife music festival Sunday in Piedmont Park.

He discussed his new baby, commercial success and his beloved Atlanta Braves in advance of the show.

Q: First, congratulations on your new baby (a girl named Mercy).

A: Thank you. She’s a good one, we think we’re gonna keep her. We like her.

Q: Since 2013, you got married (to fellow musician Amanda Shires) and became a father. How do you think your new roles will change the types of songs you write or the albums you make?

A: I really don’t know if it’ll change the type of songs I write. I really only write one type of song, and it’s mostly a way for me to try to unpack certain things and explain the world to myself, and, then, if it’s done right, to communicate with other people in that way. I pretty much always have the same goal. But, that being said, every time I write a song or a record, I try to make it a document of where I am in my life. So, I’m sure that, since these things are a part of my life now, that they will find their way into the songs, because I plan on continuing to document my own life as long as I can.

Q: Your 2013 album, “Southeastern,” has sold more than 170,000 copies, and your new album, “Something More Than Free,” has already sold more than 100,000 copies. How important is commercial success to you?

A: It doesn’t hurt at all. It’s not the ultimate goal, but once you’ve got the ultimate goal taken care of — which is, for me, to be able to continue making music as a career and continue to communicate with people and write the types of songs that I want to write — once that’s all going as well as it possibly can, then, yeah, it’s great to have it work on more of a national or international scale. I couldn’t tell you it doesn’t matter, because it certainly does.

I own my record label and I own my publishing. It’s important to me to handle the business side of things correctly because, if you don’t, you don’t have anything to retire on, and you have to make the kinds of records that you don’t want to make or take the kinds of gigs you don’t want to take, because you have to take care of yourself and your family. So, I would much rather sell a couple hundred thousand copies of a record that I really believe in now, rather than have to go play the chitlin circuit when I’m 50 to play the bills.

Q: You’re a die-hard Braves fan. What do you think of their performance this year?

A: I’ll tell you something. I’m not as disappointed in the team — and this is going to be a strange thing, but I’ll tell you. I feel like the Braves’ organist, Matthew Kaminski, I know him, and he’s a really cool guy. … Matthew used to be able to play these really hilarious, witty songs when people would come up to bat, and I don’t think they let him do it anymore. … That bothers me more than the team — the team could lose 120 games and it wouldn’t really (irk me). I was a fan in the ’80s. I’ll always be a fan of the team; I just hope they don’t take all the fun out of being at the ballpark.

For the complete interview, visit the AJC Music Scene blog.

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