July 2013 “Band of the Month” – JONNY FRITZ
When I started the “Band of the Month” feature last year, I had no idea we would be introduced to all the amazing artists that we wound up working with. From a feature with now-indie-giants, Of Monsters and Men, to the beautiful bedroom tunes of Faye Webster, the site found community and excitement in this feature. As we move forward into 2013, we plan to continue to share with you music that we’ve grown to love.
With the release of his ATO Records debut, Jonny Fritz is seemingly a new man. After dropping the “Corndawg” moniker that audiences had grown to know him by, Fritz (with help from Dawes) wrote and recorded Dad Country, a 12-track album that, while still incorporating the simple sense of comedy that audiences have grown to know him by, explores the more morose moments of life and shows that you can’t always just “laugh something off”.
Fritz states in our interview that he was “depressed as hell” when Dad Country was written and while it’s quite obvious from a number of the tracks on the album, you can tell he’s remained good natured throughout his years. He and his band just finished a US tour that included two sets at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee.
TheBlueIndian.com: You made it through Bonnaroo, and so did I. I guess in some way we’ve completed a weird rite of passage for this generation. What was your Bonnaroo experience like?
Jonny Fritz: I had a lot better of a time than I had anticipated. But it certainly was every bit the stereotypical festival experience that I had been warned of. You know, 20 year olds dragging one another around with their Camelbacks® filled to the brim with water bottles of vodka, coin purses of Adderall and ziplock bags of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; prepared for battle.
Aside from the sheer volume of people, what would you say is the biggest difference between Bonnaroo and some of the smaller festivals you’ve played?
I don’t really know. Newport Folk Festival was like BNA and Bonnaroo was like JFK. (I wish you had asked me to compare them to airports. Let’s pretend you did)
Did you happen to see any of Dwight Yoakam’s set? It made me happy to see he’s still so dedicated to his work and what he loves.
Hell yes! Dwight killed it and everyone knew he would.
Now that you have a break from touring, what are you going to dedicate your time to?
I really need to focus on making some leather goods. I used to think that leather work was as big a part of my life as music but in the last few years I’ve lost touch with that and focused too much on touring. Time to chill out.
I saw Taylor from Dawes on the cover of an old Pollstar recently and noticed his guitar strap. Does that happen to be your work? Other than it being a trade that far few people know, what got you into leatherwork?
Yeah, Taylor was the first big timer to wear one of my straps. He’s my biggest supporter. But the way I got in to leatherwork was in Nashville about 5 years ago. I was going broke and I had recently been making a lot of airbrushed pet portrait t-shirts for people. I decided I needed to expand on the craft, so I started making dog collars and wallets. Now I make damn near everything. I’m saving up my money to get a leather sewing machine [In case anyone wants to buy one for him]. When I do, plan on a whole world full of new leather stuff from me.
[Interested in Jonny’s work? Check it out here]
I felt inclined to describe your most recent album as “straight forward, comical enlightenment”. Not to say that the whole album is tinged with humorous connotations because its not, but you seem to have a generally optimistic outlook on life, at least from the material on the album. Are you a naturally good-tempered person or is it something that you’ve grown into with age?
I think its odd you should say that. I think of the album as being dark. Songs like: “Have You Ever Wanted To Die”, “All We Do Is Complain”, and “Shut Up” … I’m glad you like it either way. I’m a very happy person but yeah, I was depressed as hell when I wrote this album.
I’ll tone down the psychoanalysis and get back to simpler things…Jackson Browne has been one of my favorite musicians since I was about 16 years old and I was surprised to read that Dad Country was recorded in his studio. What was it like working with him and did he play on the album at all?
Jackson is one cool dude. He didn’t have anything to do with the recording of the album (other than hooking us up with his studio). He was sort of in and out throughout the recording process. I asked him to sing on it but he didn’t have time. I honestly think he would have, had he had time – he’s such a stand up guy.
The whole record was done in 4 days. He saw us play on a Monday, offered his studio for the following Monday – Thursday, we took his offer and the thing was mixed and mastered by the next Wednesday. It was like a storm.
Because of everything that’s occurred recently with DOMA, it sparked a conversation between a friend and I on the subject of if we’ll ever see an openly-gay country singer in the spotlight. From what we found, there’s been a few regionally known acts to come out but since the ideals of modern country aren’t necessarily the most open-minded, it seems really unlikely…just when you think about your “typical country music fan”.. What do you think?
What’s been the strangest, scariest, funniest, or most inspiring thing that’s occurred to you over the past year?
I got married at Graceland Too in Holly Springs, MS (not to be confused with Elvis’ home) a few months ago to a woman I’d met three days earlier (yes, we’re still together).
The songs on Dad Country, as well as on your previous albums, have their respective lessons in one way or another. What’s been the hardest lesson you’ve learned over the past year compared to say, when you were a teenager?
Be careful what you ask for! I used to beg for tour dates and attention but now I find that I’m more of a shut-in and I want to be alone. It sucks, let me tell you. I know exactly why people always say “I liked that band’s first couple records but now they suck.” This shit changes you! It’s much harder to have the confidence to do what your teenage self would have done – doesn’t even matter if you’ve had all positive reviews. It’s a bummer..
Lastly, what do you want to have inscribed on your tombstone?
I don’t know, maybe a knock-knock joke? I’m not really thinking that far ahead just yet.
Word Association with Jonny Fritz
Following in the practice that Sir. Francis Galton popularized many, many years ago, I decided to do a short word association test with Jonny, having him write down the first word that comes to mind when reading our “trigger word”. Yes, I had to look up Sir. Francis Galton…
Box Wine: – gutter punks
Budget Inn: – Fuck yeah
Medium Rare: – sounds great
Republicans: – republicans
Gold Teeth: – high class/low class
Riding Mower: heartland
Puberty: – sucked
Mascara: – new jersey
Poison Ivy: – Virginia
Jonny Fritz – “Goodbye Summer” from Dad Country