Engine hot and green mountain cool, Jeremy Pinnell’s Goodbye L.A. delivers polished everyman’s country music that straddles the slow-rolling river between Waylon-esque groove and 21st Century Americana style. Hints of soul and reverberations of a punk rock past salt & pepper 10 songs that blend the sawdust honky tonk of Pinnell’s 2015 full-length debut OH/KY with the emotional weight of the follow-up, 2017’s Ties of Blood and Affection. With Goodbye L.A., produced by Jonathan Tyler (Paul Cauthen, Nikki Lane) and featuring guest shots from Daniel Creamer (Texas Gentleman) and Cody Braun (Reckless Kelly), Pinnell surges forward with a broader palette and a voice cultivated through bad and better choices, family, and hard work.
AI- Did I see you grew up in the church? Is it a great assumption that country music was on the radio a lot at home?
JP- No, not necessarily. I grew up with a lot of Christian music, so yeah, you did have a lot of those older church songs, but my parents were hippies from the ’60s and ’70s. Every once in a while, I’d get a little taste of Crosby, Stills & Nash, and maybe some Hendrix or some Beatles. But it was mostly just church music.
Is that where you started singin’?
Originally, yeah. That’s where you learn rhythm, timing, you learn to sing with a group. That’s basically where I got my musical training from.
What was it that made the change for you? Was there a particular song or a band that you heard later on in your youth that made you go, “Oh! I want to go do this!”
I forget how old I was, but I saw that Guns N’ Roses video, “Welcome To The Jungle”, and I was like, “Ah! This is what I wanna do!” It was just life-changing! And then the “Paradise City” video came out after that, and I was like, “Oh my God, what is this?” And then the door is wide open from that point!
That is a huge stepping stone! I think I saw that you left home at 18 to go start tryin’ to play music for a livin’. Do you consider that to be your professional starting point?
No, definitely not. I left home when I was 17 and went and hung out with a bunch of punk rockers and got a job carryin’ hod for a bricklayer. Around 18, 19, I started to listen to folk and country music. So it was about 25 years ago. The professional jump was I had a manager out of Nashville named Terry Rickards. He came up and saw me and my wife and told me I can play music on the weekends or I can go full-time. Me and my wife both agreed now or never, so we took the jump, and that was professionally about three years ago.
I was lookin’ at your tour schedule from before the pandemic and you really were hittin’ it hard full time.
Yeah, we spent, a little over 130 something days on the road in 2019. We were tourin’ all the way up ’til our last band show of 2020 which was Valentine’s Day, I think, in Little Rock, Arkansas.
I understand that at some point in time, because of all the travel and being away from home, you’d actually consider giving it up?
Yeah, I still consider giving it (laughs)! It’s a rollercoaster, man! ‘Cause it’s a hustle, dude! It’s a hustle! You gotta stay on it and it can get a little overwhelming!
Was that the hardest part about it? Bein’ away from your family?
Yeah. I got a 6-year-old son and he needs me around. And I need to be with him, you know? It’s tough. My wife doesn’t mind it when I’m gone!
I was just talkin’ to Vincent Neil Emerson last week and he’s got a line in a song on his new album that he’s only useful when he’s not home. I thought that was pretty profound!
(Laughs) Yeah, that speaks right to me!
Gettin’ grounded, bein’ home during the pandemic, you are not alone in this, and like a lotta artists, you went back out to work in the sun. What were you doing artistically while you were– did I read that you were back working as a landscaper during the downtime?
Yeah. I got a job working for a local construction outfit– and then I hated the work! And then I went and worked for a landscaping company that I worked for when I was in my early ’20s. They’ve been payin’ me good, and it’s work I like. It’s the work I’m used to. Bills gotta get paid, you know?
Were you able to do anything creative while you doing that?
I feel like that is creative for me. I feel like work and all that stuff, that’s where the creativity happens for me. It doesn’t happen when I sit down with a guitar and a pen and a paper. It doesn’t happen at that point. It’s everything before that point.
I was workin’ from home last summer when you put out your video for “Joey”. I am a huge Concrete Blonde fan, have been since I was probably in middle school– and I even used to do that song many, many years ago! Tell me about decidin’ to record your version of that song. And I believe you made several home recordings at that time. What else came out of those home recording sessions?
I think the “Joey” one’s the only one that really stuck. It was right when we weren’t allowed to go on the road, and so I was just home. The government was givin’ me money– and it was great (laughs)! That was one of my favorite songs, like one of my bar songs. I would get a beer and go to the jukebox and I’d play Concrete Blonde, or I’d play Tom Petty “American Girl” or AC/DC “Shoot To Thrill”. I always liked [“Joey”]. I could always tell that she was being honest in that song and her voice was just so powerful! I decided to do a little video on my phone and we put it up. And then within like two days, it got like 10,000 views! So we took it down! My buddy out in L.A. told me I should put it out, and I was like, “I recorded it on my phone! That’s a terrible idea!” But the record label thought it was a good idea! So we put it out and people liked it! It’s still up in the air for me, but whatever.
Goodbye L.A., when did that album actually come together? Was it before the pandemic or were you actually doin’ some work on it during?
We were on the road rehearsing those songs at sounds check. We were writin’ that record on the road and puttin’ those songs together as we were traveling ’cause we were never at home. We never stopped! We recorded the record end of March . We had come back home, then I flew back down to see Jonathan Tyler and cut the vocals, and then I flew back. I wanna say that I came back that Saturday, and this might be a made-up dream in my head, but I want to say that Monday, they started asking people to stay home. We just got it cut right under the wire!
How did you get hooked up with Jonathan Tyler?
My buddy Scottie Diablo out in L.A. Me and him just kinda stayed in touch over the years. He saw me play at, I think it was called the Harvard & Stone out in L.A. I knew he knew Jonathan and I knew Jonathan did a little work with the Texas Gentlemen. He produced Nikki Lane’s Highway Queen record, and I really liked that record and that sound. I reached out to Scottie and I said, “Do you think Jonathan would be interested in producing my record?” And he said, “I don’t know, why don’t you ask him?” And he sent me his email! I reached out, and we stayed in touch for about a year and then finally hooked up, did some demos. It was kind of a thing— makin’ the jump to work with somebody you don’t know. And it paid off in dividends!
Tell me about your band. You’ve got your regular band that’s on the road with you– are these the same guys that went into the studio to work with you? I know there’s some special guests, but the core outfit?
Yeah! The guitar player, Junior Tutwiler, he’s just incredible! If you’ve heard the record, you can hear him, how good he is! Charles Alley played drums and he’s just always great at findin’ the pocket. Those two dudes, we’re like a 3-piece. Our bass player, we switch in and out. It’s like the drummer for Spinal Tap! You never know who’s gonna be in there! Those are my guys. Once you’re asses to elbows half the year, you grow relationships, you get good as a band, and it pays off!
I mentioned the special guests. You talked about Jonathan Tyler and being connected with the Texas Gentlemen. You have a Texas Gentleman in Daniel Creamer on the record playin’ piano! And I saw this name, and I was like, “Really?” You have Cody Braun playin’ fiddle! How’d that all come together?
Cody just lives right down the road from Jonathan! We did that “Fightin’ Man” song and it was more of like a rockin’ tune. Jonathan called it and said, “Let’s switch it up. Let’s make it a little more country.” And then he’s like, “You know what? We need to get a fiddle on there,” and he just called Cody! Cody came down the road and played fiddle! He came in with a big jar of liquor and just sat down and just banged it out (laughs)!
With Ties of Blood and Affection, you talked about the freedom that you felt making that album and discovering what you sound like. I’m always curious about that moment when an artist feels like he or she has reached the point where they sound like themselves. What about this time around makin’ this record? What were you conscious of when it came to your sound?
My plan for this record was to be as hands-off as possible. I had made those records– my hands-on records. That was OH/KY, and Ties of Blood. I had made those records. So this record, I just wanted to be like, “Whatever happens, happens. I’m gonna let go and let these guys take the reins.” I just stepped back on this record. I didn’t want to get my hands in it this time and it seemed to pay off. Maybe that says something (laughs)? I don’t know!
I talked to a guy out of Montana, Sean Devine, and he had a very similar feeling. He just put out a record called Here For It All. He did the same thing where he stepped back, he handed it to his producer, and said, “I want to make the record that you want to make.” I thought it was a strange way to make an album when so many times, artists are concerned about how their work will be perceived and handled. But he was all in! He was just like, “I can’t wait to hear it and what we’re gonna do with it!” Is that how you felt about it?
Yeah. I knew Jonathan, I trusted Jonathan. We went in and cut like three or four demos, and we sat on those for a couple months. I trusted him, and I knew he was gonna bring a good vibe to the room. I knew he was gonna get us all to work together and it was gonna be a creative experience. I was just like, “Here you go!” That’s how we came up with stuff like “Wanna Do Something”, that guitar lick. He just pushed Junior. He would say, “Try this. Try this,” and Junior cranked out some good stuff!
As a writer, have you found yourself moving more toward characters and stories, or is it still very much chronicling Jeremy Pinnell’s journey?
On this record, there’s one song that’s kind of about somebody else. I tried to get out of myself to try to figure out a story about this person who couldn’t just turn the corner, who couldn’t see his own part, you know? I think that’s a defect in most human beings, and I was just trying to relay that part. I like to stretch the truth. I mean, that makes a good story, right? You don’t wanna hear a boring story!
That’s what Mark Twain said, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story!”
There are some story stretchers on this record– but not far! I tend to just sing about what I know and it’s usually about what I’m doin’.
That song you were just talkin’ about– was that “Never Thought Of No One”?
Yeah, it was.
You’ve talked before about your love of Gary Stewart. I felt like the Gary Stewart influence was on that one. He always wrote such vulnerable characters in his songs.
There’s truth throughout that song, interlaced in that song, like, “I started my descension at the local detention…” I can remember back in my younger years when I’d go to jail every other weekend it seemed. There’s little bits of truth in there. And I think that that’s the way I could get that song to maybe connect with somebody.
What were the trips to jail? Was that just general fightin’ the world kind of stuff?
I was wild! I got wild (laughs)!
I think probably the coolest song that I have heard and quite some time has got to be “Night Time Eagle”. That’s just a cool, drivin’, sweet song!
I’d come up with that one while we were on the road travelin’. Obviously, it originated in Bakersfield. We play with some beautiful women out there. Me and my wife were gettin’ in the car one night and I said somethin’ to her like, “I’m pretty cool, ain’t I? Like a night time eagle!” And we just both started laughin’! It just sounded like the stupidest thing you ever heard! And I was like, “You know what? I wanna use that!”
Awww, but it works so well as a song, man! You’ve done somethin’ there!
I just thought it’d be funny! It’s just a basic song about bein’ out of town and lettin’ my wife know everything’s on the up and up!
“Red Roses” has a definite a shift in sound compared to what you’ve done in the past. I feel like it’s got a very soul, kinda Tony Joe White, funky Delbert McClinton thing goin’ on. How’d you feel about playin’ like that? Is it something that leaned into?
Well, I wrote that song about in about five, ten minutes. My wife and my son and my daughter were downstairs, and I just went upstairs for some reason, grabbed my guitar, sat down and I knew. I had the chords a little bit and I just put it together and it was done within five, ten minutes. It wasn’t a couple months later ’til we got to record it. We kinda had the idea, but Jonathan helped us figure it out. Yeah, it’s different, but I just wanted to do whatever I wanted to do on this record. I didn’t care how the songs added up– and they seem to add up fine– but I wasn’t worried about it.
Sitting down to write something in five, ten minutes. Does that happen to you often or is it one of those rare birds?
It’s like two out of five songs maybe happen like that. Sometimes songs are real quick. Sometimes you button ’em up real quick and then other times it takes a while.
I didn’t even know this, but, “Ain’t doin’ no good, but just doin’ my best,” has really been my motto for 2020 and 2021. I’m gonna guess that you wrote that one before all of this craziness and would have had no idea how prophetic it actually was!
The beginning of [“Doing My Best”], it was July 3rd. We were in Butte, Montana. On July 3rd, they let all the fireworks off. And then the next day, the town on July 4th is dead! I mean, totally empty! I forget what day it fell on, but as a band, we went down to this laundry mat… And there ain’t much in Butte, Montana! We were just doin’ our laundry and I think it was payday. I talked to my manager and he told us how much everybody’s getting paid. And I just told him, I was like, “I can’t pay these guys this! I can’t!” One more time, you tell your guys what they’re gettin’ paid, and you see their faces fall! It’s just a song about us traveling, really, and tryin’ to stay positive, you know? We love traveling. Some bands, they don’t like touring. We all love it!
So what’s that lookin’ like now? You’ve been back out. I looked at your summer dates, and you were very busy. Comin’ up here next month, you start a big, long run that tapers off a little bit towards Thanksgiving, but I can only imagine what your 2022’s lookin’ like. How are you feelin’ about bein’ back out and what does the future look like for you on the road?
I told my wife before the pandemic that I didn’t want to be 45 years old ridin’ around in a van. I just don’t wanna do it. And now in 2021, goin’ into ’22, that’s all I wanna do! Hopefully, we get to go to Europe next year. I don’t know what the deal is. The world is upside down a little bit. We just did a couple of weeks out West. We went down to Texas and out to Oklahoma and it was fine. I feel like people are kinda pretendin’ still, which is fine. We’re all kinda pretendin’. I don’t know what to think. I don’t know what to make of it. I don’t think my band knows what to make of it either!
Just keep doin’ your best is all, I guess.
Yeah, right? That’s what everybody’s doin’!