American Rock Duo Jamestown Revival Mix Rock & Blues on New Album
I’m early for the show, and I accidentally catch part of the sound check for Jamestown Revival. I slink into a dark corner at Hotel Cafe and watch as vocalist/guitarist Jonathan Clay works with the sound guy to perfect the levels. He bares a striking resemblance to Blake Shelton, only hotter, younger, – and more importantly, it’s obvious he cares that they sound as close to perfect as possible. I watch as they review the set list in darkness using a flashlight… It’s at this moment I notice vocalist/keyboard player Zach Chance’s lovely shoulder-length blonde hair under a pretty radical Stetson hat and can feel my cheeks blushing.
I had gone into this show expecting to see strictly American rock songs with a country slant – but I was wrong. Jamestown Revival manages to take several genres and mash them up into a sound of their own.
An hour later, the guys are clad in printed button downs as they start their set with their latest song to be released, “Company Man,” off their highly anticipated sophomore album, The Education of a Wandering Man. With a deep blue-sy and memorable opening guitar riff, “Company Man” is a song we can all relate to. It’s double drum beat topped with hand claps (moar hand claps!) is reminiscent of a 1960’s Beatles song. It’s top line has hints of Amy Winehouse, and it’s classic rock guitar riffs combine to create a perfect mixture for a sing-a-long-able hit about the age old story of “the man,” a punk rock theme at its roots. Jonathan and Zach sing one particular lyric that makes me feel like they understand my life, “I never wished no man would die, but I’m wishin’ that that company would.”
Slapping a genre label on any band is always a disservice to the music, and with Jamestown Revival, you’re in for so much more than any one-word descriptor. Though they have obvious odes to Creedence Clearwater Revival, and hints of The Rolling Stones in their music, I realized halfway through their set that I wasn’t here for just American rock songs – nope. I was here for Jamestown Revival. Who have a sound of their own…
Their new album “The Education of a Wandering Man” drops on October 7th, and their tour “The Wandering Man Tour” starts on October 17th. For now, check out their single “Company Man” and their Q&A below!
First of all, we need the origin story — where did you come from? How did you realize you could make music? How did you meet?
Jonathan: We actually met in 9th grade trigonometry class. Yes, in high school in Magnolia. Zach came into the class – the discipline in there was non-existent.
Zach: It was the first day of school and when I walked in it was literally wedgies and spitballs – it was like out of Fast Times at Ridgemont High or something. I remember being like, wow, my education is going to go to shit. I was concerned at 15.
Jonathan: I don’t remember our first conversation, but I remember becoming friends pretty quickly. And singing was something that we discovered was a mutual interest of ours pretty quickly.
Zach: So we wrote our first song together at 15.
Do you still have it?
Johathan: I think we do – somewhere deep in the archives.
Zach: Yea, it’s buried.
What made you decide on your band name Jamestown Revival?
Jonathan: It is a metaphor for history, it’s leaving behind the old and embarking on a new beginning.
Who are some of your musical influences?
Zach: Creedence Clearwater revival. Love them. Uh, Willie Nelson. John Prine. James Taylor. From that pool alone, each one of those artists has a way – it’s THEIR sound. It’s unmistakably THEIR sound. And I think we would hope to achieve something like that.
Jonathan: Yea, you know, we really got to discover a lot of those artists together, growing up and finding our own musicality – and so they really played a big part in the music we began to write, and the songs that we still write. Whether it’s the laziness of the Rolling Stones, or the wittiness of John Prine, or the depth of Guy Clark – I think we take all those things into account when we write. And they set a remarkably high bar.
What’s the difference between “California” Cabin Mix vs. Studio Mix on Spotify?
Jonathan: When we signed with Republic [records], working with our team, we said what if we took another shot at recording California? While we liked recording it, there was something about the original – we really thought it just captured a vibe and kind of the essence of the song, and we wanted to keep that in tact.
With the success of “California” (from the last album) was there a fear of being a “one hit wonder” going into writing this new album?
Zach: Was it a hit by major label standards? No. But a hit by two guys sleeping in the back of their car?
Jonathan: Enough to change how we were living.
Zach: Exactly. You wanna keep that going. I think we let it play with our psyche a little bit.
Jonathan: Sometimes when we have a particularly incredible show, I look out as the show is taking place and I look at the crowd, and I think to myself “I wonder how long we’re gonna be able to do this? I wonder how long we’ll be fortunate enough to do this? To show up to venues and have people come see us play”. I really do wonder that, and I don’t know if that’s good or bad. The fact of the matter is that I do recognize that it is precious, what is happening. And so we wanna take care of it. And we wanna try and do it right.
Zach: …Without letting it paralyze you [laughs] And that’s what “Love is a Burden” is about.
So what did you do to get over the fear?
Zach: Just admitting it to ourselves. I think it was something that neither one of us wanted to talk about. It was like, don’t acknowledge that we’re comparing every song to “California.” And then once you do it’s like, the secrets out.
Jonathan: I think we realized we were doing ourselves a disservice and our fans a disservice by not being able to write anything. We’re not doing anybody any favors by sitting here just stifling ourselves. It finally dawned on us that that was the worst thing we could be doing.
Zach: Some of [the songs] they write themselves, some are done in ten minutes and some of them take more coercing. I think “Love is a Burden” was one that I think we were done in like ten minutes.
Tell us about your new album, why is it called “The Education of a Wandering Man”?
Zach: We spent almost three years travelling after [our previous album] “Utah,” and we just picked up a lot of life lessons. From being a homeowner to breakups, to sleeping on the road, to missing home to getting caught up in your own chasing down things and losing yourself a little bit. There’s a book called “The Education of Wandering Man” written by Louis L’Amour – and it’s an autobiography. We were big fans of that. He had traveled and worked all these amazing jobs and had these experiences – so it’s a bit of a tip of the hat to him. And this is our version, in song.
Is it true you recorded the new album in a farmhouse in Austin?
Zach: Why NOT the farmhouse?
Jonathan: While this album definitely has a different sound than “Utah,” I think it retains some of the quality that we found endearing about “Utah,” and that we’re really drawn to.
We tried to really maintain what we liked about the process as well. There was no producer, there was no clock, it was just us, living in the farmhouse and playing music.
Zach: I really do think it’s an extension of our story, as much as the songs are. It was a chance for us to go and record ourselves again and see where we could take it – where we could push ourselves. And that’s as much a part of the story as the music we put out. And we’re in there with our friends doing backup vocals in a garage or stomping in the back of a truck in a barn to get these noises, or somebody opens a door during a take and it ends up in the song… So there’s all these imperfections – its like, what if we put the amp outside in this box, and then we crank the volume to twenty?
Jonathan: My amp goes to twenty. I’ve modified mine.
Zach: It’s being able to do that and being able to walk away when the muse isn’t there and sit on a back porch and kinda think about it, as opposed to feeling pressure to get it all in in one sitting in a 9-5 slot in a studio.
Jonathan: In that scenario, you don’t have time to let the song reveal itself. Sometimes you gotta reach down into the hole and rip the song out by its hair, and it comes out kicking and screaming. And you can hear that.
If “Back to Austin” were on a movie soundtrack, set to a specific scene maybe, what would it be and why?
Zach: Wow, I’ve never thought of that. I usually like to look out the window and whatever song is playing, and [think] this would make a good soundtrack for THIS…
And you haven’t thought of it for your own songs?
Zach: I don’t drive and listen to our songs very often.
Jonathan: What about The Cowboy Way?
Zach: Maybe Dazed and Confused since it was shot in Austin? or Boyhood? I’m gonna have like nine answers for you tomorrow.
Jonathan: How about Frozen? Frozen 2?
What about LOVE IS A BURDEN?
Zach: What about 500 Days of Summer? Or Garden State. That song does take the shape of a love song – and it is very much the same when you break up with someone, they’re ever-present.
Jonathan: 500 Days of Summer is right on.
If each of you had to choose a song to cover, what song would that be and why?
Jonathan: The Frozen theme song.
Zach: Any Creedence song. Any Rolling Stones song. Any Willie Nelson song.
Jonathan: True that.
Zach: Or what is that Willie Nelson tune….:::sings::: Welcome to 2003…
Jonathan: That’s the name of the song. The Year 2003 Minus 25.
Zach: It is? That would be a good one.
If you could meet any artist/musician alive or dead – who would it be?
Zach: Oooh, I might have to go with Willie nelson. Personally.
Jonathan: I’m selfishly really bummed I didn’t get to meet Guy Clark. He’s one I would have just loved to sit down in his workshop and have a chat with.
Zach: Woodie Guthrie would be pretty cool.
Do you believe that every song is about something? Or do you think songwriters just write what sounds cool?
Jonathan: I think I sing melodies that sound cool, I write words about something.
Zach: Yea, I think a cool melody or groove sparks the idea to write something.
Jonathan: That said, the diction of a word really makes a difference – the singability of a word.
Zach: I do believe there are people who write songs just to feel good – I mean who doesn’t wanna feel good?
Have either of you ever done anything using your musical abilities to convince a girl to go out with you?
Zach: Since I was 15!
Jonathan: Yea – how do you think I met my wife? I wrote her a song and sang it to her at our wedding.
Zach: We were driving up the day before his wedding and he was writing her a song in the passenger seat. You get into music because you’re passionate about it, but a close second benefit is you get into music because you wanna meet some girls.
Jonathan: When I met [my wife] Michelle, I didn’t give a shit, I was pulling out all the stops. I was like, I’ve got to convince her.
Zach: How can I convince her I’m just a little bit cooler, because actually I’m just a dork.
Jonathan: I’m Shameless.
Have you learned anything weird about each other while touring? Does anyone snore or have weird eating habits?
Zach: We’ve been friends since we were 14, we lived together in college, so I don’t know if there were many secrets by the time we were touring together.
Jonathan: Yea, it just reinforced what I already knew.
Which is what? In a word?
Jonathan: Um, if Zach was a ride at Six Flags, he would be the Ultra Twister.
John: He can go into a room super depressed and then come out super punching.
Zach: Essentially, I’m unmedicated. [laughs] Um, John needs his sleep. John cannot function on little sleep. His body just shuts down – and the best part is when he doesn’t get sleep, he wears it on his face. And it’s so good to watch other people who don’t know him because it just looks like he might be really pissed, but really he’s just miserable with himself.
John: Really, I’m doing the best I can on the inside. It’s just not working.
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