Interview: Josh Abbott Band Get Happy (With a Dash of Sad) on ‘Until My Voice Goes Out’
Ask Josh Abbott, and he'll tell you that he's "way happier than [he] was a few years ago" -- but there's still something that's, understandably, weighing him down.
In May, Abbott and his then-girlfriend, Taylor Parnell, welcomed their first child together, a baby girl. In late July, baby Emery helped her dad propose to her mom, and now Abbott and Parnell have a wedding to plan. That's two exciting, happy life events within two months of each other, following the dissolution of Abbott's first marriage in 2014, after the singer-songwriter publicly admitted to infidelity and alcohol abuse via social media.
However, in early March, Abbott's father died, after suffering a stroke on Feb. 9. That, the artist says, "is the part that just crushes me."
"I feel like right now would probably be the happiest time in my life -- and it still is," Abbott tells The Boot, "but it's like, 'I wonder how much happier I'd be if I didn't have this gaping hole ...'"
Although it was mostly completed by the time of Abbott's father's death, the birth of Abbott's daughter and Abbott's engagement, Until My Voice Goes Out, the Josh Abbott Band's new album, manages to reflect this slightly uncomfortable space in which Abbott is currently living: It begins with an instrumental prelude and its weighty title track, and it ends with a song in honor of Abbott's father and an instrumental epilogue -- but in between, it's love, happiness and fun.
Until Abbott's father went into the hospital following his stroke, Until My Voice Goes Out was going to be named after a different song on the project, called "The Night Is Ours." However, as Abbott stayed with his family in the hospital, he knew he had to make the change.
"The whole point of that song is to live life to the fullest while you can -- to do whatever it is your passionate about ... whatever it is you love to do in life," Abbott says, "and I think there's obviously a literal sense about that and then there's a metaphorical sense about that ..."
I feel like right now would probably be the happiest time in my life -- and it still is ... but it's like, 'I wonder how much happier I'd be if I didn't have this gaping hole ...'
"Until My Voice Goes Out" was the last song that Abbott's father heard. At the end of February, Abbott left the hospital and recorded all of the album's vocals in one night.
"My voice was tired, I wasn't sleeping in the hospital, I was probably dehydrated," Abbott remembers -- but, he told his producer, "There is no other time. I have to finish these songs tonight." And when Abbott went back to the hospital to say goodbye to his dad, Abbott played him the title track, "and he smiled."
"I think there's kind of a beautiful sense of fate that I'm not trying to over-sing these songs and give it my 100-percent best voice," Abbott says, getting a little choked up. "That was just as great of a job as we could do in the time frame that we had to do this album."
The title of Until My Voice Goes Out isn't the only thing that changed in light of Abbott's father's death. The album was supposed to be released in late June or early July, Abbott reveals; however, he convinced the band's management to let him add that final song, "Ain't My Daddy's Town," thereby pushing back the release date to Aug. 18.
"There are certain disadvantages and certain advantages to being [an] independent [act]," Abbott explains, "and this is one of them."
Songwriters Jaren Johnston and Rodney Clawson pitched Abbott on "Ain't My Daddy's Town" on Feb. 3 -- only a few days before his father's stroke -- and, at the time, Abbott passed; the song wasn't something he could relate to just yet. After his dad's death, though, Abbott kept listening to the track and, a few months later, decide to record it, altering a few lines to make the song more autobiographical.
After the Josh Abbott Band released the heavy Front Row Seat, which chronicles the rise and fall of Abbott's marriage, in November of 2015, it was the band's fiddle player, Preston Wait, who suggested that their next album should be upbeat and lighthearted.
"The next album [was] something -- if we continue[d in the same vein as Front Row Seat], we're kind of being redundant," Abbott says. Instead, they sought out to make a sequel of sorts, in terms of the vibe of the album, to their 2010 record She's Like Texas.
"I really hope that's how people will see the album ... These are really beautiful and honest songs about life," Abbott says, "and I hope people crank it up ... and listen to the love songs and fall in love and listen to the horn songs and want to dance."
Oh yeah -- the horns. Abbott had the crazy idea to get a full orchestra involved in Until My Voice Goes Out, but the band's producer convinced him to dial it back and "take steps to get there." So, Abbott and his band -- who, Abbott says, felt the idea was maybe a little too out-there at first -- found horn players and string players to come into the studio and add accents to their new songs.
These are really beautiful and honest songs about life, and I hope people crank it up ...
"We still built the same JAB cake that everybody knows and loves, but we put a new icing on there," Abbott says, explaining that the string and horn players "played around us," instead of the other way around. The result, he adds, is "so many moments that are subtle, but pop."
String and horn players will accompany the Josh Abbott Band on their fall tour in support of Until My Voice Goes Out, too. They'll play on the new material, of course, but also add new layers to some of JAB's older favorites.
To purchase Until My Voice Goes Out and learn more about the Josh Abbott Band's upcoming tour dates, visit JoshAbbottBand.com.
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