Interview with Pony Bradshaw: the new album ‘Calico Jim’ “sounds like an artifact”


Pony Bradshaw is an artist who lives in northwest Georgia. The area where he lives helped to inspire his new album Calico Jim. The album tells stories of man and nature and the connection to history. Of the album, Bradshaw said, “It was paramount that we practiced restraint. Less glamour was something I reminded myself over coffee before heading to the studio.”

By phone, Bradshaw discussed creating the new album, having the right personnel, and how the pandemic has affected his creative process.

Americana Highways: In your statement about Calico Jim, you said, “I tried to think small about big things.” What did you mean by that?

Pony Bradshaw. You’re going for the throat instantly. I just mean family, community, history, relationships to nature. I was just thinking about those kind of ideas that seem very small and slow, but they’re actually pretty big.

AH: The building blocks of life. What was unique about recording Calico Jim?

PB: That’s a tough one too. We went back to the way we started making music. It was just simpler. Some of the other records have been way more complicated, more drawn out. That’s the standard way that businesses do things. We just took it back to the way we used to make records. Go with your buddies into the studio, a good take, a good performance. It doesn’t have to be any more complex than that. That might be a unique approach.

AH: It sounds like you wanted that old-time approach.

PB: I wanted it to sound like people actually getting together and making music instead of computers, edited and pieced-together kind of work. What you hear is what we did in that moment. It sounds like an artifact, a piece of history, instead of something that was pieced together electronically.

AH: You recorded in six days. Did you plan to record so quickly?

PB: I prefer that. That was planned. A lot of the songs were written in a five-, six-month period. We recorded them as soon as they were finished. Never played them live. We never knew what was going to happen. Six days, seven days, that would be my preferred method every time. Otherwise, you’re piecing it together, and I try to stay away from that. I like to get it done in one kind of spirit.

AH: Other artists maintain a similar frame of mind when it comes to recording. They say that the longer you spend, the farther removed it is from the original feel of it.

PB: Exactly. I’ve had experience with that type of record before. I wasn’t interested in it. It didn’t give me any joy. When you start taking things away, they call it stripping it, but that’s how it was originally. You’re stripping it back to its original form. You’re not taking away.

AH: If you do too many takes of a song, it starts to feel like work.

PB: Yeah. You gotta have the right band. You can’t just walk in there with anybody to get it right. That’s an important part of making a record – using the right personnel. My buddies, the guys I need, I trust their abilities. That’s very important. I don’t like going in with strangers.

AH: How has the pandemic affected your creative process?

PB: It’s obviously given me a lot more time to write. I’m pretty obsessive about writing, and I think I’ve gotten more obsessive, which is not necessarily a good thing. I’m trying to find balance. My children help me with that. We get outside, riding bikes in the mountains. They love rivers. We don’t get in them in the wintertime, but we still go visit them. It’s given me a lot more time to write, but it’s also made me stay home. I’d probably lose my mind if I were writing all day. I’m ready for it to be done.

AH: What would you be doing if you weren’t making music?

PB: I try to think about that every now and then. I feel like my identity is so tied up in what I do. I’d be writing. I was a sportswriter for our local newspaper. That was my last job. If I weren’t making music, I feel I’d pursue something in the newspaper world.

Calico Jim will be available everywhere on January 29. Order your copy here.

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