It’s a Thursday, the kids are in school, and Jeremy Ivey calls from East Nashville where he and wife Margo Price are enjoying a morning jaunt to the coffee shop. That entire notion would have seemed absurd at the time of our last conversation a year ago. Jeremy had just released his excellent second album, Waiting Out The Storm, and was fresh off the mend from a lengthy battle with COVID-19 that was as emotionally debilitating as it was physically. But as we delve into his latest single, I can hear a lightness in Ivey’s voice– and only slightly tempered excitement. “All Kinds Of Blue” is a lovestruck rocker, jangly, driving, and buoyed by harmony (courtesy of Price), that echoes much of the sound Ivey’s cultivated with WOTS and his debut solo effort, The Dreamer And The Dream. The song’s video features a barefoot Margo and black-eyed Jeremy seemingly serenading each other in the vocal lounge of the Bomb Shelter studio while a masked crew engineers the party. Sure, it’s a pointed reminder of the pandemic’s presence in our lives, but it’s also a celebration for two artists who’ve endured every challenge the last two years could hurl their way. Though we couldn’t fully explore everything on the horizon (yes, there is a new album and tour slated for next year), Ivey was able to talk about the family songwriting dynamic, what it’s like to make John Prine laugh, and just how he got that black eye!
AI- I’m excited to catch up with you! You and I spoke almost exactly a year ago, and at that time, you had mentioned that you wanted to put out an album a year. So when I saw “All Kinds Of Blue”, I thought, “Okay, here we go!” But you’re kinda doin’ a slow build-up this time?
JI- It won’t be long ’til the next one’s gonna be out. We wanted to put something out in the fall, but we felt like with the pandemic and everything, there was gonna be a ton of records comin’ out in the fall. So we didn’t want to oversaturate! But the record’s done! So living up to my word (laughs)! It was ready a year later!
It’s my understanding that the song goes back a little bit. Is this one of the ones that you wrote during The Dream And The Dreamer period? Or is it newer than that?
No, I think it was kind of a random song. I think it was probably after that record, maybe before Waiting Out The Storm. Just one that I wrote, a fun thing exercise to get Margo to laugh at somethin’ I was writin’! It didn’t really fit with what I was doing at the time. I first started playin’ it really slow, which is the way that I played it when I played it for a John Prine–kinda fingerpicking it slow. And then as we started doin’ it at live shows, I started pickin’ up the pace and doin’ more of like if Dylan Desire-era covered it. That became the way that we cut it, but originally, it was very Prine-y.
I love the story of you being able to share that with John Prine– and you even got him to laugh with the line about Jesus getting a face tattoo! What kind of thrill is that? To make John Prine laugh with a lyric?
Oh, it’s the best thrill! I had been friends with him for a while up to that point, but I never was ballsy enough to be like, “Hey, I’ve got a song, listen to it!” He knew I wrote music, and I’m not sure he was aware of my solo stuff, but he knew that I wrote with Margo and I was a writer. One day we were cutting a version of “Unwed Fathers” with Margo, and I was playing harmonica. When we got done, she just insisted that I play it for him. She’s like, “John’ll love that song!” It’s the best! It’s like getting a comedian to laugh at your joke! A hero! He’s one of the best with funny sad songs, you know?
The story of writing the song– you at the kitchen table, just shouting lyrics back and forth. I don’t think that I am alone in imagining that is how a lot of the songwriting gets done with you and Margo, you know, whatever’s goin’ on in the household, and you just sort of sitcom-like fittin’ it in when you can. Does it actually go that way more often than not?
Yeah. We’re always showing each other stuff, and I feel like more me than her, I probably annoy her with the amount of material that I’m writing all the time. But you gotta look at it this way, I’m doin’ an interview now and it’s great, but I don’t have a lot of in-demand things happening in my life. So the thing that I do mostly is write! It gets my manic-ness out! For Margo, she’s busy, she’s doing stuff. She’s got a lot of press, she’s got demands, she’s gotta do voiceover stuff for things, she’s been doin’ acting stuff. Her plate’s full! So she’ll write somethin’, and when she writes something, it’s incredible– and she writes pretty often, but she has to strike lightning when she does it because she doesn’t do it as often as I do. I always feel like I’m annoying her with like, “Hey, I got another one!” It’s like every day, you know? But we do value each other’s opinion. The funny thing is when she wants to write one all by herself and doesn’t want my help, I can see her maybe strugglin’ with it for a couple days, I’ll be hearing it, and then I’ll throw in my 2 cents! And she’s like, “No, no, no! This is all me!” It’ll go by a little bit longer, and then she’ll finally be like, “Alright, dammit! What do you think about this line?” So then it ends up bein’ a co-write! But it happens both ways too!
Let’s talk about the video for “All Kinds Of Blue”. What studio was that you guys are hangin’ out in?
For me and Margo, as far as our history in Nashville, it was our original place we recorded. It’s a place called the Bomb Shelter.
Oh, yeah! I’ve never seen pictures of the inside like that. Huh!
It’s a great studio, it’s one of our great friends– Andrija Tokic owns it and runs it– and when we had our old band, Buffalo Clover, that’s the only place we recorded. We’ve been back and done things here and there, but I recorded “All Kinds Of Blue” and my new album that’s gonna be comin’ out fairly soon there. I just wanted to get back in there. The equipment’s incredible, and like I said, Andrija’s an old friend of mine. That’s our old haunt! That’s where the Alabama Shakes did their first record, and through that studio, we met a lot of people that we know who would crash on our couch when they made records there. It’s just a home for us, you know?
And the shiner, Jeremy, the black eye? Who wer you playin’ basketball with that was throwin’ elbows?
Well, it wasn’t even an elbow! What it was is there’s this ragtag group of musicians that plays once a week and the group is kinda called the East Nashville Slackers. We’re all usually either road tired or hungover and not in the best shape. This was the first time I’d come back to play in a while and I was out of shape. It wasn’t an elbow, it was a head! So what happened was me and this other individual were running full speed and not looking ahead of us in opposite directions– and if you ever wanted to know what that sounded like, it’s a really loud CLACK, two skulls hitting! I knew immediately when I hit the floor… I could feel the skin open on my head!
What you can’t tell with the shiner is it’s actually stitches! That’s what happens when you get the hit and get about 10 stitches in your eyebrow– it just turns into a black eye! So I actually opened up, I mean, you could see my skull! Yeah, it was pretty nasty. But it ended up being great because two days after, one of the guys that was playing basketball with me was a photographer, a good friend of mine. He called me up and said, “Hey, how’s it lookin’?” And I said, “It looks pretty gnarly.” He said, “Can I come over and take a picture of it?” He’s the one that drove me to the hospital, so he knew it was gonna look pretty bad. We used that for the album art, and then it just happened that two days after that, we had the video shoot for it! So I was like, “Perfect!” It’ll be a theme for the rollout of the whole thing!
Who is on the East Nashville Slackers ad hoc basketball team?
There’s a bunch of musicians! [The photographer’s] name is Curtis Millard. He kinda started it all up. He does video work for a lot of people, Aaron Lee Tasjan, and people like that. It’s just a random group of people. Some of ’em are pedal steel players, songwriters, and engineers. Some are just stay-at-home dads. It’s about 12 dudes ranging ages and skill levels!
So the next record. Without diving headfirst into it– because I know there’s a rollout process and I hope we get to talk more in-depth about it when that time comes– but just to kind of flirt with it. With Waiting Out The Storm, you and I had talked about the effect that current affairs at the time had on that album, but how you were really more interested in drawing more from your imagination for the next project. Of course, you were also personally deeply affected by your experience with COVID and appreciating your family more. Tell me what the new album is going to focus on. Is it gonna be more celebration than observation or is there gonna be a little mix of both?
I think it’s more internal. Definitely what I told you before, which is funny because I hadn’t written it yet! But more imaginative and different in a way where it’s more musical and more internal. More personal, I guess.
Will it be another album with the Extraterrestrials?
Mostly not but some. I always use those guys once in a while. I won’t say who produced, but I more or less let the producer decide who [the players] were, which was kinda nice! That way, I wasn’t in trouble with my band, and it just wasn’t my choice. I was just like, “Hey, do everything!” But those guys popped up on it a few times. Margo pops up on it a couple of times. It’s kind of a mismatch! But I still have a plan at some point to do an Extraterrestrials album that’s just so Crazy Horse it’s stupid! Just make it very simple, very live. That’s where those guys shine!
Will “All Kinds Of Blue” be on the new album or is that a one-off?
It’s a one-off. It’s just a single. It didn’t really fit. It could fit, I guess, but it didn’t really fit the musical vibe or the rest of the record.
Tell me about writing singles versus conceiving songs for an album. How does that process work for you? Do you immediately know that you’re steering in one direction or do you just have to wait until you’ve amassed a number of songs and then you can see the pattern?
I guess I probably steer it because I go through waves of inspiration. I’m always writing stuff here and there, but I know when somethin’ starts comin’. If it’s more than three or four songs and they all feel similar in a way, then I know it’s probably a record. That’s what happened this time, which is probably the reason that “All Kinds Of Blue” is not included ’cause it was just a random song I wrote. Most of these songs I wrote all in the same timeframe, so they all had the same feel. I started getting a little bit more, this isn’t giving away too much either, but a little bit more musical. I used the COVID times of bein’ home a lot to retrain myself as a player with different core structures and different diminished things and things I wasn’t usin’ before. That’s been cool. It informs, but it doesn’t really change the way I write. Lyrics are always important, but it’s a little more musical.