I had a chance to chat on the phone with Americana star, Jason Isbell, about his album release, Something More Than Free. We talked about his philosophy on songwriting, the challenge of following up his magnum opus (2013’s Southeastern), the prospect of him becoming a father, his opinion on why women make better artists than men, the role producer Dave Cobb plays in creating his records, and the idea of blending fiction and non-fiction for songs that always strike a chord.
Is Jason Isbell the best songwriter of his generation?
The former Drive-By Truckers member certainly made a case for the affirmative on Southeastern, his breakthrough solo LP from 2013. Southeastern was the kind of remarkable record that only grows in stature, importance, and personal impact over time. Written in the wake of Isbell getting sober and taking control of his life, Southeastern was at once both mournful and hopeful. Within those songs was a man with a suitcase full of doubts about himself, but also someone with the resilience to push forward and be better—at least with the helping hand of the person he loved most. “Home was a dream, one that I’d never seen, until you came along,” Isbell sang on “Cover Me Up,” Southeastern’s stirring mission statement, and the best song of the decade so far. He wrote it for Amanda Shires, the woman he married just months before Southeastern dropped, and the person he credits with saving him from the darkness.