Song Premiere + Interview: The Jerry Douglas Band “2:19”
Led by 14-time Grammy Award-winning musician Jerry Douglas, The Jerry Douglas Band will release their debut album, What If, on August 18th. The new project merges jazz with bluegrass, country, blues, swing, rock, and soul on eleven tracks filled with bold arrangements and unexpected elements. One such song is Douglas’ rendering of Tom Waits’ “2:19.” A funky revelation, the song drips with soul courtesy of some dynamic horn-work and Douglas’ bluesy vocals. Stream the exclusive premiere of “2:19” below then read on to see what Douglas had to say about the track and the making of What If.
So, why did you choose to cover Tom Waits and “2:19” in particular?
I was on a tour with Allison Krauss and Willie Nelson and I picked up the Brawlers, Bawlers, & Bastards box set which had “2:19” on it and I just went crazy for that song. I love what the song says, and how tangled up and crazy it is – it sounds like me!
I met Tom Waits when he opened for the Country Gentlemen at the Cellar Door in Washington DC in 1973 – prehistoric times to most (laughing). We were standing outside and Tom was teaching me how to smoke because he was a professional (laughing). I’ll never forget that. He’s an amazing person and an incredible writer. I just love him.
You truly made the song your own. How did you decide which direction to take it? Did you know going in how you wanted to record it or did you try different things out?
I knew which direction I wanted to take it before we recorded it. I tried to make it my own, and we changed it up a little bit, putting some solos in there in different keys and having the horns which gives the song new life. I like to say it’s a little more Ry Cooder than Tom Waits. I didn’t feel like I needed to top Tom’s version, and some people might not even know it’s a Tom Waits song, you never know, – but I pay him either way (laughing).
You’re out in front as a singer with this project. Are you finding that a comfortable fit?
Definitely. To me, playing the dobro sort of takes up the same part of the brain as singing. There are no frets on the dobro to stop a note, so you have to be in tune, use vibrato, and be emotional with the note, like singing. You know, I’ve been behind so many singers for so many years and singing is something I have always done, but not in this way, standing in front of a band. I’m becoming more comfortable with it all the time, but you’re never going to see me come out and do a complete vocal set. My sets are more musical with vocal interruptions (laughing).
It’s new to be singing songs and staring at the people in the crowd who are probably going, ‘I didn’t know he sang;’ I look at them and wonder if they wish I would stop (laughing), but most of the time they tell me that they didn’t expect to hear me sing, and I guess that’s good. I’ll take that. I’m not known as a singer, but at the tender age of 61, I’ve decided to go for it become one and I’d say it turned out pretty good.
Even though you’ve played on and made numerous records, this is this the first album where you are using The Jerry Douglas Band name.
This is the first record I have done where I’m not calling it a solo record, it’s The Jerry Douglas Band because I would never have come up with these ideas myself. It was such a collaborative process working on this record. There’s a great camaraderie; everyone is on common ground, with the same interests, and very professional. I’m a dobro player, but I think like a band guy and I am loving having this band where everyone compliments everyone else. Mike Seal is blowing faces off every night; Christian [fiddle] I saw play at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and filed his name away for this project; Vance teaches at UT and is thankfully able to come out and play with us; Daniel is from Knoxville, and James well, his Dad wrote the charts for Al Green and Anne Peebles so this is in his blood. In fact, he wrote the melody for the horns on “What If” for which I gave him a songwriting credit. He’s able to take what I do and do something with it, and that’s just amazing.
Speaking of “What If,” why did you choose that song as the album’s title?
This record was like a dare for me to make [with a band] and it’s a dare I won in my estimation. I wrote it, but the guys brought it to life and I just love it. This song is beautiful and cinematic, and I wouldn’t mind hearing it being played as the credits roll in a movie.
Beautiful! With the various projects you are involved in musically, is there anything yet you want to do?
At some point, we will probably add to the live show, bringing in special guests so that the nights are more than just having us on stage. I’m not bored with that at all, but we want to build and evolve. That’s what we want to do and that’s what the audience wants a band to do – they like to hear you stretch a bit and that’s what this band is built for.
I’m keeping busy with this band, then I’m headed back in the studio with Alison [Krauss] for a few days then it’s onto Red Rocks with Lyle Lovett and dates with the Earls of Leicester who are still ballin’ the jack as well. Things are rolling along just right and that’s very nice.
Catch The Jerry Douglas Band at Music City Roots on July 20th
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