There are so many things to love about this weekend’s New York Times Magazine profile of Jason Isbell. I’ve been a fan of his ever since coming late to the Drive-By Truckers, and hearing friend Meghan argue for why her favorite was Isbell while mine was Patterson Hood. Since leaving the Truckers, Isbell has blown me away with Here We Rest (too often I find myself singing Codeine under my breath in the big stairwell at the new office), kicked his addictions, seemingly come to peace with his writerly self, and left me excited for his soon-out (June 11) Southeastern album.
Bound for Best Music Writing, the profile captures all of that and more.
Isbell is a slow, careful writer. He worries the little things. “What keeps me up at night is stuff like the consistency of pronouns,” he says. He’s a grammarian. “My dad, as much as I love him, has one of those signs — ‘The Isbell’s’ — on his front door, and he’s got the damn apostrophe in there. I haven’t strangled him yet.”
Later, after a long day of recording, Isbell was sitting at the kitchen table in the unassuming duplex apartment he shares with Shires on a run-down street in Nashville. There were guitars and books all over the place. Isbell attended the University of Memphis on an academic scholarship. He studied creative writing to help his songwriting and published a few poems in small literary magazines. He read a lot of Faulkner and Welty and Denis Johnson and Cormac McCarthy. So their apartment looks like what George Jones and Tammy Wynette’s apartment might have looked like, if George Jones and Tammy Wynette had gone to the Iowa Writers Workshop.
Shires gave Isbell a kiss and headed back up to bed, after bringing us two RC Colas and a couple of Moon Pies. The next morning, they would race into Nashville in his pickup truck, an Obama/Biden sticker affixed to the bumper, to get a marriage license. That night, he watched her go with a sheepish grin and said, “I used to think that only stupid people could love each other this much.”
Here’s a track from the new album. Going to go pre-order now. You too?