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March 29, 2010

There's Predictable, And Then There's Shooter Jennings

Posted: 02:44 PM ET

By Quinn Brown

(CNN) - Son of country music legends Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter, the 30 year old singer/songwriter has lived a life mercurial. He has fully embraced his father’s roots-country past (don’t even mention the term “outlaw country” to him) on the tribute album "Waylon Forever" and even portrayed his father in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line.

He has traveled well beyond the ‘country rock’ label into the heavy, southwestern metal stomp of Electric Rodeo. 2010 finds Jennings going even further from the man you thought you knew. Enter Black Ribbons, the new release with his new band dubbed Hierophant. As the name suggests, it’s an album of mystery and darkness (and even Stephen King).

Jennings and his band serve as interpreters so the listener can find some way to wade through the arcane nature of both Shooter himself and the times we are living in. Neither of which are easy. The recurring lyric on the title track – “lost in the night/no direction or a guiding light” – starts the journey on the album…but it doesn’t end there.

The lead single “Wake Up” starts with a dense, murky arrangement before bursting with a sonic crunch and the hopeful lyric “don’t let them get you down,” and its instrumentation going from early prog-rock Genesis to the grunge-y wallop of Alice in Chains or Mastodon. Ribbons is dark, to be sure, but the listener is not tied to the abyss (Jennings describes the message of the album as “positive…hopeful”).

The album is nowhere close to Waylon, and it’s an unexpected leap forward (and beyond the boundary) for Shooter. And for a musician who prides himself on taking chances, the unpredictable is the only thing that is predictable.

Shooter Jennings sat down with LKL blog just after the release of Black Ribbons to talk about what triggered the album, his break with his label and Nashville, and why Stephen King’s voice was in his head.

Brown: What was the initial moment of inspiration for this album?

Shooter: I had come to a head in my career with my old label. They came back to me and gave me a not-really-supportive pat on the back and said, “Well you know we’re going to chop budgets.” That was that. I was at a crossroads and I pretty intimidated a little bit.

I just had a daughter about 6 months before. My family and I were in New York and we were [ready to try something new]. So we rented an RV and migrated back to L.A. so I could start working on a record. When we hit the road the economy collapsed and there was a feeling of fear and loathing that was going on all over the place. No one was sure what was going to happen and it just became this big scare. I was in this RV with my family and we’re in the middle of the country and everything was really great inside the RV and everything outside was really scary and unknown. It was late night drives every night and I was listening to radio and there were different people talking about different kinds of [doomsday] scenarios. The police state and the global invasion of the banking system and how close we were to a position that could result in riots going on in Britain and France and all these places and just [complete] craziness. And it inspired me to dig a lot deeper into all the things I was hearing about and at the same time it made me really appreciate what I had. It made me realize how important my family was and the economy was the spark that inspired the message and story behind the record. By the time we got to LA I was in a completely different mindset. It took several months of [digging in to the story] but it definitely started there.

Brown: The album certainly has some darkness to it…

Shooter: But I think it’s hopeful. We painted this sort of dark scenario around everything but the message is kind of positive about you know hanging on to love and the things around you. Kind of like painting a wall black so when you paint a couple colors on it, it really stands out. I had been through an experience and the walls kind of crumbled around me and I was lucky enough to hold on to the friends that I have because when all that stuff goes away, the attention and whatnot goes away, you are left in a position of counting your losses and you [rely] on to the people that matter in your life.

Brown: One of my favorites on the album is ‘All This Could Have Been Yours.’ Who is that directed at?

Shooter: That is a song that I wrote about my experience in Nashville. I cut my first record without thinking that anyone in the country music world would ever embrace it. I just wanted to blend my love of that stuff with my love of the rock stuff and it took off in this way. By the end of it I was broke and it felt like I had been beaten down and about ten years had been drained from my life. And I felt like I kind of wrote down these lyrics and emotionally grabbed by how I felt. . It sounds like a breakup song and most people think it’s about a girl- and I [can see how that would] apply. But for me it was definitely directed at the people that never supported me to begin with and laughed at me when I left.

Brown: How important to you is the freedom to change styles? To go from a particular sound on one album to something drastically different on the next album?

Shooter: It’s really important but it’s a really scary endeavor in a way. For me its really not that different. A lot of people heard that record and have been like, man this is the kid I knew growing up. It was funny, when I was in Nashville I didn’t really care about country music. It was all around. I loved my parents’ music and I loved country music. But it was a combination of two things [in finding my sound]- getting to LA and then really embracing my roots to some degree. And the other part was I was growing up with the understanding that the beauty [is in] the lyrics and the emotions behind the songs, not a particular [style] of music. It’s about creating something and following your inspiration. I think if I had to cut another album to please expectations I think I would be uninspired doing it. I think [with this album] it was so much fun to be crazy. And playing the songs live next to the old material- it doesn’t sound so [drastically] different.

Brown: You have said it is the downfall of an artist if he tries to recreate something, specifically what Waylon did. How much of this record was a reaction to that?

Shooter: If anything a lot of it was inspired [by Waylon] and I always want to be inspired by him. You know once you put limits on music it’s time to quit. He was always trying to do something different. When I did a record when I was 16, he and I went to the studio and I was really into Ministry and Nine Inch Nails. So I built this industrial record to put these vocals on. He was really amped to try something like that. It’s weird because people have a preconceived notion of who my dad was. We’ve gotten a whole lot of really positive reactions from this record. There are a couple of [Waylon fans] who are angry about it. That is a disgrace to my dad. He was the guy who would embrace all this music. There’s a group of people I think were looking for me to be like the outlaw country thing. My dad never liked the term outlaw country and I never liked it. There’s never been outlaw country. There’s only so far you can go with something that’s already been done.

Brown: I have to ask about Stephen King. How did you get him involved as the narrator of the record?

Shooter: I knew he was a fan and I had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to try and reach out to him. It took me a long time to get a message to him and he was so cool and generous. Upon listening to the album he liked it and agreed to add [his spoken word parts]. One day I had a package on my doorstep with all the parts. I remember sitting in my studio one day thinking I can’t believe this. It just made me get the chills that he was so gracious to hear me out and do it.

Filed under: Entertainment • LKL Web Exclusive


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Truth   March 29th, 2010 3:09 pm ET

What the Vatican is not telling you – the real cause
behind the church sex abuse scandal

But first, I ask you how many more children have to enter drug treatment centers, commit suicide, and lead harmful destructive lives before the Church opens their eyes?

The Vatican head – The Pope, recently accepted responsibility for the Irish sex scandal. One of the largest scandals in the world. While some praised the Pope in his valiant effort to admit there was a problem, there is a difference between acknowledging the problem and solving the age old problem.

The real problem or cause is not being addressed, and until this is done, many more priest will continue to rape, molest and in the end continue to destroy lives, and their families. But I have uncovered the reasons why and today I am sharing this information with you. My hope in doing this is simple. We all after reading this can forward this information over to the Vatican so they can open their eyes, and in the process prevent any more of our children from getting hurt.

The failure of the church and its policies

I hold the pope and the church responsible for the many centuries this sex abuse of our children has been going, and in the millions of lives they perhaps ruined along the way. But how is this so? and who is to blame? Someone is responsible for the sex abuse scandal? The answer will shock some. No, not Satan as some in the Christian faith would have you believe.

Here is the real reason why our priests are molesting our children. This is something the Church fails to acknowledge. I am here to open your eyes and theirs. Here is the first revelation.

Man by design are sexual creatures by nature. This is a fact,
furthermore when an organization or church policy tries to suppress
this biological need, it can and will morally corrupt any man.

The church policy does not allow priests to marry, or have have them involve themselves in any type of sexual relationship. When you open your eyes, you are now witnessing the creation of the problem. In essence the Church has created these monsters along the way. I have never blamed the priests. They enter into the priesthood, and when they do, they have no idea what they are getting themselves into.

Suppressing a man's biological need is morally reprehensible and should not have ever been a part of church policy.

I will share with you at this time the daily dilemma of the life of a typical priest.

“The church is telling me I can't have sex (against church policy), then
I have to deal with my own body telling me I have to have sex” “What do I do”?

These are the daily battles now corrupting our priests. They have no sexual outlet needed to release the tension. The Second revelation.

Man by nature needs a sexual outlet to feel balanced and whole. (Universal Law).

Otherwise if changes are not made within the Church many priests will continue to take their repressed sexual urges on our children, the most vulnerable ones of in our society.

The church in the future will have no choice but to make policy changes, and allow priests to marry, for the sake of the children. This is urgent in the wake of the Church sex abuse scandal. Lastly, when one priest in Wisconsin over the course of his priesthood rapes and molests over two hundred children, it is time to “wake up” and make a change. I urge each and everyone of you reading this to share this information with others. If enough people “wake up” we can all make a difference.

Who knows by doing so we may save one child's life today. Thank you.


Nichelle   March 29th, 2010 8:29 pm ET

I love the new album by Shooter Jennings. I can't wait to see him in Austin, TX on April 8th (the day before my birthday) I've been a fan since his first album, Electric Rodeo. This album is different from his other releases and is quite interesting. I love the fact that Stephen King is in it too. Black Ribbons reminds me of radio talk host, Alex Jones. (Don't be a sheeple)


mayer   March 29th, 2010 9:11 pm ET

must be a huge fan there Nichelle. I invite you to put the o back in country someday...


Brenda   March 29th, 2010 9:42 pm ET

Haven't heard the Album. Big Country Fan. Not, sure I like Heavy Metal Country Rock. i AM SURE there is meaning in the song. Not sure were the parallel between him and Stephen King. Sounds interesting though..


tim   March 30th, 2010 11:10 am ET

the new album is great. if you only like one kind of music, if you are not open to new things, it is not for you.


Lisa   March 31st, 2010 7:30 pm ET

I have been a huge fan of Shooter and his band from day one. While this album is vastly different from his others it is every bit as amazing if not more so. I have watched this transition take place over the last few years and I support it 100%. I will always be a Waylon fan, but I have never expected Shooter to be his dad. I appreciate his take on what the music industry has turned into and I couldn't agree more. I just hope all the current fans embrace the new sound and, even more, I hope that those who are experiencing Shooter and Hierophant for the first time will keep an open mind and really give this album a chance. The message is bold and razor sharp, but it's an important one. If you've never seen these guys live you don't know what you're missing. Check out the tour schedule and try to catch one of their shows. I promise you will NOT be disappointed, but you WILL be enlightened.


Jessie from Auckland, NZ   April 6th, 2010 7:09 am ET

That's a flattering picture. Can hardly see him properly. Looks a bit like his dad.


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