With Robert Ellis at the board, Jamestown Revival pulled the cord when they stepped into the studio to record their latest album Young Man, available January 14. With no electric guitar to be found, Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance were forced to experiment, leading to a number of pleasant creative surprises along the way.
I recently sat down with Clay and Chance to discuss new beginnings, self-reflection, and the snapshot that develops when they sit down to write songs together.
AH: Wow! What a great album you two have put together in Young Man, which is due January 14. What does it mean to the both of you to have this record sort of kicking off a new year. Does it represent new beginnings in a way?
ZC: Thank you! It does feel like new beginnings to us, especially after the past two years, but I can’t say that it was all intentional. I don’t think it was until we were pretty far along in the songwriting process that we realized a definite theme to the music and a January release just happened to coincide nicely with everything.
AH: This is the first Jamestown Revival record without a lick of electric guitar present. Was that a conscious decision going into the songwriting process, or was that born of later creative inspiration?
JC: When we first started talking about making an album with Robert (Ellis), we all got together and talked about it. We started talking about references and inspiration for the album, and we noticed that a lot of the songs we were referencing had no electric guitar. I believe it was Robert who threw the idea out there. Excluding electric guitar helped push us to create dynamic in other ways. It helped us to do things that weren’t so predictable.
AH: What did that lack of electric guitars do for your artistic output? Did it unleash you in some way, or, did it do the opposite and make you play within a set of margins that you weren’t necessarily comfortable with?
JC: It forced us to do two things. We had to use different instruments to add mid-range, and we had to create dynamic in a different way. On some of the songs it would have felt pretty natural to grab an electric guitar and fill in a solo. Without that around, it allowed for more experimentation. Take “Moving Man,” for instance. I don’t think that pizzicato fiddle solo would have every found its way on to this record had we opened up that space by removing the option of an electric guitar.
AH: What would someone learn about the two of you today, heading into 2022, in sitting down to listen to Young Man front to back?
ZC: I hope that when people listen to this album, they catch a glimpse of our youth and can relate to the self-reflection in many of these songs. As we grow older and have more responsibilities on our plate, I think it’s only natural to look back on different times in our lives, celebrate the joyous memories, and confront things we would’ve done differently.
AH: As mentioned, the album was produced by Robert Ellis, someone who always has an interesting take on a song, whether it’s lyrically or musically. What did he bring to the table that made the experience of recording Young Man a unique one for the two of you?
JC: Robert (as with any good producer) almost always has an opinion. I say that in the most endearing way. So many times in the studio, that’s exactly what you need. You try something and you look to someone else to give you constructive, instantaneous feedback. If it didn’t work, you may look to that person again to suggest something new or different. Robert is incredibly dedicated to his craft. I have the utmost respect for him as a player, and he blows me away on a regular basis. To be able to bring him into our process has been a truly rewarding experience.
AH: Sticking with the experience of making a record, so often we the listener only focus on the end product. We hear the songs and that’s what we take away. But for the two of you, there are weeks and months and sweat and tears that go into making a record. What will you carry with you through the rest of your career when you look back on the process of bringing Young Man to life?
ZC: You know, other than our first album, we’ve never had this much time to be in one place and work on the music for very long. We are usually touring or not playing shows on the weekend and all that movement can make the process feel a little disjointed at times. So it was nice to be primarily focused on just the album. Also, the experience of going into a proper studio at Niles City Sound and not trying to record in some obscure place or cabin out in the middle of nowhere. We had such a good time making this album.
AH: I’ll be honest. I have a hard time making sense of musical genres nowadays. There are so many sub-genres used to help “define” what something is that I think it sometimes takes the heart out of what that something actually is. Regardless of how the press or fans define the music that Jamestown Revival makes, how do you view the art that you two create together? Is it ever-changing?
ZC: It is exhausting. Not sure why we feel the need to define everything all the time, but I’d like to think we’re continually growing and changing in some way, and since there are two of us writing, there is always a multitude of influences coming into our creative process. It’s fun to move around a little bit and pull from different styles. It keeps things interesting. Ultimately, our sound is a snapshot of who Jon and I are as people at any given moment in time.
AH: When you two hang up your instruments and call it a career, what do you want to be remembered for? How would you like the Jamestown Revival legacy to live on?
JC: As a couple guys who did their part to carry forward the legacy of those who came before, and inspired a few to carry it forward to the next generation. Music is a like a torch that we each get to hold for a second, with each writer shepherding it forward the best way they know how.
AH: We just kicked off 2022. Do either of you have any New Year’s resolutions that you’re going to put into effect and if so, how do you plan on sticking to them?
JC: We want to write and record two more albums this year. A lofty goal, but I think it’s doable.
AH: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
JC: No, because I fear it would doom me to nihilism—a philosophy that I fundamentally reject. I much prefer things that instill fight and fire.
ZC: It’d be nice to know what pitfalls we might find, but no, I think the twists and turns we’ve encountered have been the best part. We’re currently working on a musical for the book The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton at the moment, and I would never have guessed it was a possibility. It’s been one of the most fun tangents we’ve ever taken. I’d hate to rob ourselves of all the unknowns.
To stay up to date on all things Jamestown Revival, visit www.jamestownrevival.com.