Jason Isbell: “You Learn As You Go”

Talks Raising a Family on the Road

Jason Isbell can’t wait to take Mercy back on tour.

They were on the road together last fall while his wife Amanda Shires toured the country to support her latest album My Piece of Land. The setup on his tour bus was better suited for Mercy than the van mom was riding in at the time.

When he told CMT.com about what he most looks forward to on the road, it came down to the adventures of having his wife and their 22-month-old baby girl with him.

The family of three will be together when Isbell and the 400 Unit head out on the Willie Nelson’s Outlaw Music Festival Tour on Wednesday (July 6) in Rogers, Arkansas.

“It’s not as hard as it would have been 10 years ago,” Isbell said of raising a baby on tour. “That’s for damn sure because we’re in multiple buses so I could have a bus that’s just me, Amanda and Mercy. Ten years ago, we would have all been in a van, and it would have been impossible. Somebody would have had to stay home and raise the kid.”

Before Mercy made her world debut in September 2015, Isbell talked to musicians he looked up to and got input on raising a family on the road from the Kristofferson’s, Alison Krauss and others.

“It can be done,” he said. “You can find a way. One really interesting thing the Kristofferson’s told us a couple years ago — it was before Mercy was born — Kris’s wife used to go on the Highwaymen tours. Usually Johnny Cash would spend his time with June, and he kind of had his own thing going. Kris would go golf with Willie, and Kris’s wife would take the kids to the zoo.

“Waylon Jennings didn’t want to play golf. He wanted to go to the zoo with them, and so she always wound up at the zoo with their children and Waylon on all their days off. It’s funny the situations you wind up in when you’re touring with children.

“We’ve got it easy compared to most people in general in this country, and we’ll figure it out,” he added. “You learn as you go.”

Additional acts performing on the Outlaw Music Festival Tour include Bob Dylan and His Band, The Avett Brothers, Sheryl Crow, My Morning Jacket, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Margo Price, Hayes Carll, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real and Particle Kid. The five-date fall leg of the tour kicks off Sept. 8 in Holmdel, New Jersey.

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