Bones Owens is an artist who makes his home in rural Tennessee. He has played with artists like Mikky Ekko and Yelawolf. His first couple EPs leaned toward an Americana sound while his new full-length, self-titled album is more of a blend of rock and blues. By phone, he discussed the making of the new album, how he spends his time while unable to tour, and the interesting room where he writes most of his songs.
Americana Highways: How is the new album different from previous albums?
Bones Owens: Well this is the first full-length album. Everything prior to this has been singles and EPs that I’ve self-funded and released. With this record, I toured for a year straight before going in the studio, so it includes mostly songs written with the live show in mind.. as a result, overall it’s more of a rock record front to back than the previous releases.
AH: You recorded the album direct to tape. Why did you want to do it that way, and how did it affect the record?
BO: We did it live to tape, at least the main tracks: drums, bass, rhythm guitar, organ occasionally. My favorite records were made that way. It was important to me to do this record that way. You can do a lot of things with digital, but you can’t create that sound fully. It was important for me to do it that way. I’m an advocate for not overthinking, for not overcooking the songs and recordings. There’s something about recording to tape where what you see is what you get. Of course we did some dubs afterward, but there’s a certain energy that’s captured when this pressure of not messing up the take.
AH: How long did it take to record the album?
BO: We did all the basic tracks in three days. Then maybe we overdubbed for an additional three days. About a week or so.
AH: Does that create a sense of urgency?
BO: It does. I’ve made records with other bands and other people I’ve played with before. I made records where we camped out in the studio for a month or two months. You can create cool things that way too, but there is not a sense of urgency when you know you’re there for a month or two. That can be good and bad depending on what vibe you’re looking to create. In this case, I had all the songs ready to go. We knew what we were doing. The studio time was really just going and executing it. If you look at it, a lot of the classic records were done pretty quickly. Some of The Beatles records were created pretty quickly where a lot of the songs were recorded in the same day. I think there’s something to it. It depends on the style of music, the amount of production involved, and what you want to get out of it. These songs were written in a way that was sort of a tip of the hat to older ways. The recording should mirror that.
AH: You had recorded the whole album before COVID, right?
BO: We made the record at the end of summer, 2019. I had just gotten home from a tour. We intentionally knew that everything would be pretty fresh. We had been rehearsing a lot of the songs in front of live audiences prior to recording. Another thing that allowed us to move quickly through the recording process was that we already fairly sharp on some of the songs.
AH: What’s it like not being able to tour? How do you fill your time?
BO: I have a wife and three-year-old son. My wife works, so I’ve spent a lot of time with my son. I’ve spent a lot of time continuing to write for the next album. This is my first full-length album. The usual gripe with sophomore albums not being as good as the first. You make the first record, then you tour for a couple years, and you have to go into the studio and you didn’t have a lot of time to sit around and create the next record. I’ve had plenty of time for that. I’m trying to make the most of it. I’ve written quite a bit of what will be the next album. I live in Tennessee in a rural area outside of Nashville. We’ve got a little bit of land to stretch out. I feel fortunate for that. We’re just hunkered down out here. It’s tough not being able to play shows. It’s a big part of what keeps me sane. Music is not just therapy for those people listening to it, but creating it as well. I realized how important it is to me to be able to perform. I’ve gotten more used to not doing it. The first several months were really a transition.
AH: You have a lot of interesting things in the room where you do most of your writing. What is it about that room that gets your creativity going?
BO: There’s an office in my house where I work. We’re in the country, and it’s a lot of pasture. Our neighbors all have horses. I grew up in a rural area in Missouri. To me, it’s peaceful. There are lots of reminders in that room of different periods of my life, and family members, things like that. My grandfather’s arrowhead collection, family pictures, knickknack stuff that I’ve collected from all over the world. Something about that environment , it just feels like a creative space to me. In the last five years, most of the songs I’ve written have been in that room.
AH: What’s the most interesting, eye-catching thing in the room?
BO: There’s some weird taxidermy in there. There’s a coyote head wearing a big cowboy hat, smoking a cigar. I think the arrowhead collection is my favorite thing in there. He worked for nearly 40 years for an orchard and fruit-tree nursery in Missouri where I’m from. In the early days of working there, he was on his hands and knees working in the fields and found these arrowheads. I have his collection and it’s hanging on the wall. He’s gone now, but that’s a special thing for me.
AH: What would you be doing if you weren’t making music?
BO: Where I’m from, a lot of people are farmers. My grandfather just turned 80, and he’s still farming. I did a little bit of that when I was young. I went to college for creative writing. I guess I’d like to think I’d still be creating or telling stories in another way. I had thoughts of being an author when I was in college. Maybe that’s what I’d be up to. I moved to Nashville when I was 21. That was more than 15 years ago now. It’s hard to imagine doing anything else. I’d be happy creating in some other way like a visual artist. The written word has always been something I’ve cared about.
Bones Owens will be available everywhere on February 26. https://www.bonesowens.com