When it comes to making music, there is always going to be that pressure to make it the best the world has ever heard. Sometimes giving into those thoughts can feel like carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders across an endless, scorching hot desert.
That kind of pressure inspired Jamestown Revival’s Zach Chance and Jonathan Clay to write the anthemic lead single “Love Is a Burden” from their sophomore album The Education of a Wandering Man, which lands Friday (Oct. 7). It plays out like a metaphor for a relationship with a biting tambourine and sonic allusions of the Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down.”
“We had experienced so many really overwhelming things from the time we released Utah,” Chance said on a call with Clay from home in Austin, Texas. “And ‘California’ took us places I don’t think we ever really imagined. Oddly enough while we were making the record, we just wanted to compare everything to it and it really messed with our heads for a while. I think once we realized we’re not going to make the same record, we wrote ‘Love is a Burden’ vocalizing that to ourselves.”
For a timeless Ansel Adams theme, the director Paul Pryor shot the video in cinematic black and white under the blazing hot sun in California’s Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
“It is so hot there you feel like you can’t breathe,” Clay said. “I’m from Texas so I know some heat. But my gosh, that was another level. It was Paul’s idea to go shoot it out there. He’s very much an outdoorsman and a naturalist, and we’ve got to give credit to him for capturing that.”
The 12-song collection gets its title from the autobiography by classic western novelist Louis L’Amour, and it’s also a personal philosophy for the guys in that they believe that life’s most important lessons are learned through experience.
“While I do think there are things you can read and things you can learn from a book that can help you make sense of your experience,” Clay said, “I think the real meat is the experience itself. I know this relates to a lot of careers, but in this industry especially, the highs and the lows seem to be very polarized. It’s a rare day that you just kind of feel like everything’s consistent and going well. It’s either going really great or you feel like you’re terrible at music. It’s trial by fire, and it’s us finding our way the best way we know how.”
But it’s the fact that they pay close attention and give new meaning to every day life in their music that makes Jamestown Revival storytellers to trust. For example, the fiery “American Dream” was written in the wake of a homeowner’s nightmare at Clay’s place. At the time, the family home had a leaky roof and both the water heater and the air conditioning were broke.
“It felt like my house was turning on me and all these things had to get fixed,” Clay recalled, “Zach came over to write and this songbird was up in this oak tree, just singing the most beautiful song and we considered how simple his life is — just free of all the stress, complication and distraction. We work really hard to live this complicated life, to live in this stress and there’s just some irony in that.”
Full of Jimmy Reed-style blues and some Muscle Shoals soul, The Education of a Wandering Man offers an eclectic style of alt country for hearts who live to ramble. It’s easy to imagine the guys singing the dreamy “Back to Austin” as a way to stay awake on those long hauls back home on tour. Chance and Clay address corporate greed in “Company Man” and a fool’s ambition in the swampy “Poor Man’s Gold.” The closer “Head On” celebrates getting lost with the women they love and raising a little hell with the good ole boys.
“When I listen back to it now,” Chance says, “it reminds of the time after we’ve played a show and we have to get six hours down the road but we have all this energy from playing. Then we jump in the car, and that late night playlist begins. We end up listening to all kinds of different music depending on who’s driving and so it feels very eclectic. It feels like the music was subconsciously written listening to a lot of old country, old rock and old soul. It definitely influenced the record.”
Jamestown Revival are on tour through Nov. 10. They will headline at Nashville’s Exit/In on Nov. 1.