Country music was built on Saturday night sinning and Sunday morning redemption. And Jace Everett wouldn't have it any other way. "I can definitely say this is an honest record from top to bottom," says Jace of his self-titled debut album. With hell-raising rockers and soul-baring ballads, the record is a musical biography of an entertainer who's paid his dues in just about every kind of day job you can imagine, and who's already played all over the world in his young life.
Jace's family moved from Indiana to the Lone Star State when he was six. He calls himself a "born-again Texan." "Unless you're born there, you can't say you're a Texan or the real Texans will draw and quarter you," Jace explains with a smile. "They'll consider you a 'naturalized citizen' but not native. There's a serious pride thing."
Like so many other country artists, Jace learned his chops in church. "We went from being Catholic-Episcopalian, anyway-to going to an evangelical Methodist church," he recalls. "They basically had a rock band up on stage, and I thought that was cool. So I'd do the school and church musicals. That's when I started playing bass. I bought a bass on a Wednesday afternoon and that night I played it at the youth service. I had no idea what the hell I was doing, but that's how I started."
Why the bass? "A bass has only four strings, so I thought it'd be easier than a guitar," he laughs. "I didn't realize how hard it was to play bass and sing. I found out in short order." While Jace immersed himself in Gospel music, the young musician was also absorbing the sounds of some of his adopted home state's greatest artists, including Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. The music of those Texas legends and others was in heavy rotation at the Everett house. "Country is the first music I ever listened to," says Jace. "It's just the stuff I grew up on. Seventies and early '80s country--that's all I heard at my house. That and Elvis. My parents never even owned a Beatles album.
"Songs in the '80s, like Don Williams' 'I Believe In You'--that's a beautiful song," he adds. "And it's saying some stuff that's not politically correct at all. But the chorus is, 'I believe in love, I believe in babies, and I believe in you.' That's cool. That's the kind of honest music I like."
Yet it wasn't country music that first put Jace on the road. After moving to Nashville to attend Belmont University, the frustrated student quit school and started tending bar, as well as taking any gig he could find as a sideman. When a buddy of his got the opportunity to go to Europe to play in a cover band (performing everything from '50s rock to contemporary country to '70s and '80s rock), Jace packed his bass and joined the band, too.
"It was two months that turned into four months," he says. "Then we took a month off, and then I went back over for nine months. It was during this time that I met my future ex-wife. She was working in a bar we were playing at in Monaco. We were just too young. She's a nice gal and we get along fine now, but we were just too immature then to know how to be married to each other."
The struggling couple had a son, Jacques, and then they moved back to Texas. "It's a lot further from Monaco to Texas than it is from Texas to Monaco," he says ruefully of the cultural differences. "We lived in a nice house; I quit music and did construction full-time. I had a little dump truck that I built and a bobcat. I did construction clean-up and slowly began to hate my life--except for my kid, who I love very much. That's the best job I've ever had--being his dad."
As for those other jobs, Jace's resume is quite colorful. In addition to being a bartender and dump truck driver, he's been a ditch digger, framer, photographer, truck washer, mover, waiter and bus boy. But none of those jobs gave him the satisfaction of being on stage and performing. So when his marriage ended, Jace moved back to Nashville and once again played sideman to aspiring artists. But within a year, he had his own major label deal. However, when the execs who signed him left the label, Jace found himself back at square one--but not for long, because soon Jace had another record deal, this time for Sony Nashville.
"Lucky beats smart," he says of his serendipitous path to getting two deals in quick succession. "It's ridiculous--I was very, very lucky. The music business is not a talent show. Unfortunately, Nashville has some of the most talented people that you'll probably never hear of. The really lucky ones are the ones who get to put a record out. I'm definitely one of them."
Jace Everett was produced by noted Nashville producers Mark Wright and Greg Droman. "I was nervous as hell," says Jace of making the record. "I've been in studios a lot. But I got in there with some of the best players in the world, and with one of the most successful producers of all time in country music, in this HUGE studio--and I was thinking to myself, 'Golly man, don't screw this up! You've made it this far. Don't choke!'" he laughs. "But everybody was really cool. I try not to take myself too seriously. And that served me well with those guys, because they've seen it all--twice. They've worked with the biggest names and watched them rise and fall. But as a musician, I actually have a little bit of an ability to talk to those guys. Because I kind of know their vocabulary, we could talk on that level.
"I guess it was around the first of this year," he continues, "when we were first starting to mix the record, that I realized I'd actually made a record that sounds like me. It really feels like my album. I'm very proud of it."
As for the record's theme--the struggle between raising hell and repenting--Jace says it's "the typical backslidden Christian mentality. Wanting to have my cake and eat it too." Songs like the wantonly wicked "Bad Things" and the id-ruled "Everything I Want" are proof that the battle still rages.
Jace's first single, "That's The Kind Of Love I'm In"--a sexy celebration of love and lust--shows his rowdy side. "Musically, it's just a fun rockin' song," says Jace. "Lyrically, it's about how when you first fall in love with someone, you swear you'll leap tall buildings, stop the earth from spinning, or even drive the wheels off your truck just to touch the woman you love.
"This song is fun to play," he adds, "and I know what it's like to go out on stage and play live. You need those songs, because people don't come out to a bar and pay to see your ass so you can sit there and talk about your kids and your wife and how much you love Jesus. They'd be like, 'Dude, I'm drinking a beer--play something good or get off the stage!'" he smiles. "And I like that kind of music. It's fun.
"But I also don't want to be a vacuous boob," he counters. "There are things that are important to me, like my failures as a husband and a father in the past, and how I'm trying to not make those same mistakes and learn from what I've screwed up. How to be a better man. I want to talk about that too."
And he does, in the biographical ballads "Half Of My Mistakes" and "Nowhere In The Neighborhood." Jace, who wrote or co-wrote six of the album's 10 songs, even closes his debut with his literal life story, "Between A Father And A Son." "Those are songs that are really me," says Jace. "I think I'm going to be playing those for a long time."
And he'll also continue to rejoice in the honesty that is country music. "This is all real," he says of his album. "There's no bullsh-- on the record."
As for this redhead following in the footsteps of his heroes, like Willie Nelson? Jace modestly refuses to even compare himself to the "Redheaded Stranger." "I'm the redheaded neighbor, maybe," he laughs. "You know, that asshole down the street who doesn't mow his grass, and that they call the neighborhood association on."
--- from the official Jace Everett website