The road well-traveled is full of stories. Tales of heartbreak and love. Unique people. Strange places. But sometimes it’s the road less traveled that takes you to the place where you find fulfillment for the soul. That’s what you find when you make a stop at the “Midnight Motel”.
Slated for release August 26, I was fortunate to hear an advance copy. This collection is for the true fan of Jack Ingram and of intimate performances. The album draws you in with it’s audio-verite style. You don’t just hear the songs, you’re there for the stories that go along with them. It brings to mind that it’s just you, him, and a few others in an old motel room after a late night show. Just some folks getting together to pick a little, sing a little, maybe drink a little, all the while sharing the soul of the musician in his element.
The road is a familiar friend to Jack Ingram. He never seems to leave it. Recently while rolling down I-35 towards Austin, he took the time to talk with me about this interesting collection of songs and his life.
It’s been seven years since Jack Ingram put out his hit album “Big Dreams & High Hopes” so my first question was obvious, why did we have to wait so long to “open a fresh bottle of Jack”? He laughed at first, “Isn’t seven a magic number?” Then he filled us in. “I didn’t mean to. But when I got off Big Machine (his label at the time), I felt the landscape was changing. I felt I had been running hard for a long time so I figured I’d see how the dust settled and how people would sell records. And I wanted to catch my breath. I knew I wanted my next record to be really something I could stand behind artistically.”
From the love struck loser crooning on “Champion Of The World” to the tale behind “Blaine’s Ferris Wheel”, Ingram has created not just an album, but an experience we haven’t seen in recording in a while. “I grew up listening to Willie Nelson records, Jerry Jeff Walker records, Guy Clark records, stuff like that. There were always quirky things about those records that drew me in as a listener. I wanted to know more about what was going on in the studio. The way everything is recorded these days is so damn perfect it takes that kind of magnetism out of the records. Sure it’s a hit song and that’s great, but I want to know what the artist is doing in the studio.”
Was he conscious from the outset that this would be a storyteller style album? “I thought what would I want to hear? There’s a song on there called ‘Nothing To Fix’ which starts out with ‘Don’t try to sell what you wouldn’t buy’ and that line says to me a lot about where I am as an artist. I’m not going to try to bullshit anybody. This is the kind of music I’m really drawn to. It’s what I feel when I sit down to write a song, that’s when it comes out. Sometimes I can turn those songs into things that are more commercially driven. It doesn’t make it any worse. It doesn’t make it any better. It just makes them be different. But with this record I wanted to make it sound exactly how I write them.”
As a former radio personality and programmer, it was evident this record was made for the fan. That particular person who wanted to not only hear the songs, but experience the moment. I didn’t really find anything close to being a radio spin so when I brought this up, Jack responded with a laugh “I think that’s painfully obvious…(laughing)…to the detriment of my accountant and wife.”
He continued, “If there’s only going to be one fan of this record, it’s going to be me. I did it mostly to please myself to be honest. I always found records ten, fifteen years after they were out. Whether it was ‘Blonde On Blonde’, ‘Blood On The Tracks’, or ‘Redheaded Stranger’, the records I grew up idolizing were all records that withstood the test of time and they had nothing to do with radio spin. The content spoke to people.”
There is a companion short film for Midnight Motel. Rather than shooting conventional music videos, this short uses songs from the album to tell a story and features Jack as a troubled troubador. At select shows this has been shown before a concert starts. It’s also been featured in the Dallas International and Nashville film festivals. I left our conversation assured we all will be able to view it soon.
To this writer, this record is one of his finest to date. Raw, emotional, and in front of you where you can’t ignore it or simply play it in the background. Angst, love, and storytelling in a digital world. And in this digital world it will be timeless. Jack can’t say he’s its only fan. I know of one other and I’ll bet there’ll be many more to come.
Here’s some quick Jack questions sent in from the fans:
What do you prefer playing in: intimate settings, concert halls, festivals, or the beach? “Man, that’s funny. When I dreamed about playing music it was split between an intimate venue and a festival, but if I’m on an outdoor stage, the sun is going down, and the people got a good beer buzz and I’m laying really loud, that’s a lot of fun.”
What’s the last song you listened to on your iPod or music device? “It was ‘Anyhow I love you’ by Guy Clark.”
What artist would people be surprised is in your music collection? “Drake. And I think that guy is hilarious.”
What’s your go-to comfort food or munchie? “I just stopped at Health Camp and had a double cheeseburger. But if it ain’t Health Camp, it’s Whataburger.” Spoken like a true Texan
Jack Ingram performed at the Cultural Activities Center in Temple on May 21st. CenTexFun.com was on hand to capture some of the moments of his show to share with you.