Vic Chesnutt – Gravity In Bulk
Five years ago, Jack Logan was dividing his time between repairing pool motors by day and constructing enough songs with his musician friends to fill a 90-minute tape in one session by night. Today, after two albums and enough glowing press to wallpaper his house, Logan’s life isn’t radically different. Oh, some things have changed, to be sure. He’s married now, and he’s also the proud owner of a new used ’65 Dodge Dart. But if his wife thought she was getting an Athens version of Bono, one has to hope the newlyweds remembered to hash out a prenuptial agreement.
Vic Chesnutt is married, too, to a wonderful wife who serves double duty by playing bass in his band. In recent months, Tina Chesnutt’s father has been helping the couple build a garage studio that takes up a good chunk of their back yard. In general, Vic enjoys the recording process the way some folks are drawn to horror movies; that is, he finds the experience both exhilarating and frightening.
Chesnutt’s ambivalence toward recording has a long history. Just ask his good friend, Michael Stipe. It was Stipe who first dragged Chesnutt — protesting all the way, so the story goes — into a recording facility eight years ago, and cajoled him into committing some of his songs to tape. Two years later, those songs became the first of four albums released on the tiny Texas Hotel label.
A few months ago, a group of artists with wildly divergent musical sensibilities culled those albums for some Chesnutt gems and recorded the songs for a new Sweet Relief Benefit album, The Gravity Of The Situation. In November, Chesnutt released About To Choke, his first album on Capitol.
When it comes to writing, both Chesnutt and Logan create songs the way Stephen King churns out books. At last count, Logan’s recorded output was approaching triple digits, and a fair number of those songs can be found on Bulk and Mood Elevator, his two albums on the Medium Cool label. The size of Chesnutt’s output is probably comparable to Logan’s, although, as mentioned, Chesnutt and tape recorders have a more tempestuous relationship. In his back-porch southern drawl, Chesnutt maintains he’s at his best when he’s alone and no tape is running. Of course, in that regard, all one can do is take him at his word.
For this conversation, the participants gathered around a table in the kitchen of Chesnutt’s quaint, turn-of-the-century home. There were no Ouija boards, no Rorschachs, no Tarot cards — just a couple of six-packs to grease the mind a bit. In addition to his Dart, Logan was clearly excited about some upcoming sessions taking place at a small Atlanta studio. Chesnutt was a tad fidgety, perhaps anxious about the release of About To Choke. Now that his music is known outside a small cluster of friends and fans, the stakes have escalated a bit.
ND: When is the last time you two guys saw each other?
Jack: It’s been a long time. Didn’t we do a little benefit with Dave Barbe? For a school, wasn’t it? They wanted to get a Spanish teacher, so they had a little musical show.
ND: You played at Logan’s record release party two years ago. I didn’t realize it had been that long ago.
Vic: I vaguely remember that.
Jack: Well, Vic travels the world. He’s international.
Vic. Yeah, I’m a big ‘un. I’m big in Puerto Rico.
ND: Are you still writing a lot?
Jack: I’ve been trying to. I went through a long stretch where I didn’t really do anything. Most of the summer, as a matter of fact. But I’m trying to do some more now.
ND: How’s married life going to change that?
Jack: I don’t know. I don’t see how it’s really going to change it. My wife’s very tolerant, and encouraging, really.
ND: Yeah, but now you have to write some about her.
Jack: Well, look at Vic. He seems happier than ever. How long have you [and Tina] been married?
Vic: Over six years.
Jack: Six years. [Vic’s] my role model. He met the right person.
Vic: She’s a funky bass player. Every marriage needs a bass player.
Jack: It’s not an easy thing, I don’t think.
ND: Which of Vic’s albums is your favorite?
Jack: Well, my favorite is still West Of Rome. For some reason, I love that record. Not that all your other stuff isn’t great, too.