Josh Abbott Band Didn’t Intend to Make Another Personal Album
The Josh Abbott Band concede that the second half of their latest studio album found some dark spots they didn’t quickly want to revisit. In fact, the group was aiming to make a quasi-sequel to She’s Like Texas (2010) this time around, but life happened.
"I’m ready for some publicity and some albums that aren’t built around life and death experiences," Abbott tells Taste of Country near the end of a long, expansive interview. "We need to be boring again. That’s what needs to happen."
Put mildly, Abbott and his bandmates have made a few headlines over the last three years, but no one has shied away from facing these life pains head on, even when they're self-inflicted. The Front Row Seat album (2015) explored the ugly end to Abbott's marriage in often uncomfortable detail. After its release, it was love, loss, a baby and a "series of heavy emotional blows" that included more death, a gruesome discovery and a nearly fatal allergic reaction to glutathione. WTF would have made a fine album title but instead, the group opted for Until My Voice Goes Out, a title that wound up being perfect.
Paradoxically, the band's profile continued to rise through it all. "Wasn't That Drunk" (a collaboration with newcomer Carly Pearce) became their highest charting song ever on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. They solidified status as festival headliners in Texas and began to expand sellout rates elsewhere. A graph showing professional growth would be slow and steady, while the same for their personal lives would look like an electrocardiogram.
"Bad publicity sucks," the always forthright Abbott says as guitarist and fiddle player Preston Wait sit alongside him, nodding. "That divorce thing, that blows. And headlines for that ... they're hard in the moment because you're living in it and it affects you and the people that are related to you and going through that situation.
"But years later it hurts because that's what people can find when they Google your name, and that's not who you are anymore. I've changed a lot, grown up a lot. I'm engaged to someone and we have a beautiful baby girl ... I feel fulfilled in ways I never knew I needed and one day will my daughter Google my name and find those stories?"
There's no mention of Abbott's ex-wife on this album, nor is there any of his daughter as Emery was born after the album was complete. His recently deceased father earned a tribute at the end with a song called "Ain't My Daddy's Town" that has a story dramatic enough to earn inclusion on Until My Voice Goes Out:
Josh Abbott Shares Crazy Story Behind "Ain't My Daddy's Town"
Fiancee Taylor is found on "I'm Your Only Flaw" and while topically the meat of this project is lighter and more playful than the group's last album (skip to "Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot" or the single "Texas Women, Tennessee Whiskey" for an example) it's still tinged with sadness at many turns. You hear it in the title track but before that, it's tangible during a symphonic interlude. Horns and strings are what separate this project from anything the Josh Abbott Band has assembled, and 95 percent of what you hear in country music.
Wait says the tone and quality of Abbott's voice is different now too, pointing out that he's quicker to embrace songs with more depth than he was when the group formed over a decade ago in Lubbock, Texas. Abbott concedes he's grown up in that way too, but adds that at times his voice is flat-out tired, so he's gravitated to a more singer-songwriter style.
"The reason I wrote (the song) 'Until My Voice Goes Out' is because over the last couple of years I've really struggled at times with voice fatigue," he says. "It just happens ... and so I've kind of had to learn to sing a different way on some songs that I can't explode on."
I’m ready for some publicity and some albums that aren’t built around life and death experiences. We need to be boring again. That’s what needs to happen.
That's intentionally palpable on the 11 vocal songs on this album (two are preludes and one is an instrumental epilogue). His scheduled time to record his vocals came while his father was in the hospital after his February stroke, and not wanting to spend a moment away from his bedside, he arranged to do it all at once. So one day he flew to Austin and cut every song in three hours flat, trusting his bandmates to finish the album without him.
"I wanted it just to feel real," he says. "I told the producer, if the name of this album is Until My Voice Goes Out what better way to sing these songs than to do it in one night. And if some of these takes are a little raw, or I don't hit the note quite right or it's a little rough, doesn't that make it part of the narrative? Isn't that the way it should be done?"
Charles David Abbott died in early March, and when pressed a tearful Josh Abbott says he hasn't quite processed it fully. Bandmates help him get through the most difficult times, but to some extent, it's a day-by-day progression.
"I haven't been able to write the song I really want to write for him yet," he says. "I've got some great ideas and I've started but I haven't finished them and I don't think I can yet. I don't think I'm there."
This confession makes it entirely possible that even the next Josh Abbott Band album will be about life and death. The cycle continues.
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