Interview: Corb Lund Discusses New Album, Working With Producer Dave Cobb and Why He Still Loves Vinyl
While maintaining an inimitable knack for telling stories through his songs, Corb Lund has pushed himself -- both musically and personally -- on his latest studio album, Things That Can't Be Undone, out now via New West Records. Working with producer Dave Cobb brought with it a new creative process, and the result -- a beautiful blend of classic country and Americana sounds -- might just be, as it stands right now, Lund's masterpiece.
As he celebrates the release of Things That Can't Be Undone, Lund was gracious enough to spare a few moments from his increasingly busy schedule to chat with The Boot about the record, what it was like working with Cobb -- who has produced for the likes of Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton -- and why he still thinks vinyl is an important format for music fans.
It’s been a few years since you’ve released a studio record. How does it feel to have Things That Can't Be Undone wrapped up and out to your fans?
It’s a relief. It’s been a while. By the time we finished recording, we were done in May. After that, it takes a long time to get the cover done, promote it, those things. But it was a relief when it was finished, and it’s a relief now because there’s a lot of work after. I’m really excited for it and to get people’s reactions.
Were you working on this for three solid years following 2012's Cabin Fever?
As best I could, but you go through dry spells, right? I think with the last record, we toured for about eight months, so I didn’t get a whole lot done then. Then I wrote a few songs in my cabin, and then I moved to Berlin for a few months and wrote a bunch there.
Sometimes I wish I could get a record out every 18 months, but it’s just not practical when you have to tour ... and sometimes the creative juices just don’t flow with the band, you know?
How did you and Dave Cobb get hooked up for this LP?
Through the record label. New West put us together, and I was all over it.
What was that relationship like? It seems like you approached the recording process differently this time around.
Yeah, we did. We heard Dave preferred that the band not know the songs, so a lot of the music we didn’t -- well, I had a lot of songs written, but we didn’t work it to death with the guys before, because Dave likes to be involved and have a fresh start in the studio.
It worked out really well. I sort of liked giving up more control to Dave and the band; after doing records a certain way, I was more than happy to have some help.
Did the new process ever get tense as you gave up control?
Not much actually. Really, it was never that tense. There were a couple of times where we didn’t agree, but Dave was really cool about that. He had great ideas, and he’s truly a real music fan. He’s got a big reputation, but at the core, he’s super into music, and he’s got really great ideas. He likes to dig in deep.
When you premiered “Weight of the Gun,” you mentioned it was one of your favorite songs, but you had never written in "that style before." Was that style part of the interaction with Dave?
Actually, that one was the opposite. That was one of the few ones we wrote before. I had that riff for years, and so me and the guys jammed it and came up with the music first. That was opposite for me, to get the music first, then the words.
That was a great song to introduce fans to the new album.
Yeah, I like that one. It’s cool; it was a good way to launch it. And we just made a really cool video for it, kind of like an intro for a James Bond movie.
At its cord, Things That Can't Be Undone definitely has a sort of “classic” feel, though it doesn’t feel out of place in the 2015 Americana landscape.
Yeah, I feel like it has a ’60s country thing going on, but it’s timeless, that sound. Dave is really good at that; it’s all organic.
You recorded this in Nashville, right?
At Dave’s house, actually. He has a studio. It was pretty painless; it was fun. Usually it’s a painful process. It was good.
I imagine you’ve spent a lot of time in Nashville throughout your career.
Oh, yeah, been back and forth here and there.
Do you feel like you fit into that community?
Parts of it. There seems to be a really cool underground scene that’s happening that I feel akin to. I don’t really have a whole lot to do with the corporate country scene -- I don’t understand that so much -- but Nashville is getting to be known more and more for the underground, and I like that.
My favorite track on the record is “Alt Berliner Blues,” and when you sing about this place that you lived in and how it’s changed over time, do you get a similar feeling when you spend time in Nashville -- or any other city for that matter?
Well, I’ve spent some time in Austin over the years, and it seems to be getting busier and busier all the time. Nashville ... they seem to be making a lot of condos these days, you know? I guess it’s inevitable, but it’s kind of a drag. And actually, that’s sort of what “S Lazy H” is about, too.
As you mention condos in Nashville, I definitely think of spots around the town, even on Music Row, where they're popping up.
Yeah, it seems like somebody should be protecting that history. I don’t know much about civics in Nashville, but that seems important. You know, there’s so much stuff in Nashville, there’s almost bound to be cool stuff in spite of themselves. There are so many musicians there and so many studios -- I think it helps to have Jack White there, yeah?
Definitely. People look at Third Man Records and everything he’s done -- and the fact that he set up shop in a sketchy neighborhood -- and give him a lot of credit.
Yeah, exactly. It’s cool.
While we're talking about Nashville, I know Things That Can't Be Undone was pressed at United Record Pressing. I love when artists and labels release new music on vinyl, and I'm always interested to know if it's something that's important to you, or if it's more just a part of the process of releasing an album.
I know New West does it as part of the release process, but it’s definitely important to me. It’s been really cool to see the resurgence of vinyl, because in the first part of my career, that wasn’t happening at all. It was cassettes and CDs. It’s cool, especially when I get to see my back catalog released on vinyl years later.
Why do you think vinyl has enjoyed this recent resurgence?
I'm not sure, and I don’t know when it’s going to stop. I think it’s five parts sitting down with the record and having that experience of hearing the needle pop, and maybe two parts, it’s just cool. [Laughs]
For me, I think music has changed -- I mean its function in our society. People used to have to sit down and listen to a record, and now it’s just kind of background music, right? People are so busy that they just put music on in the background and don’t really pay attention. A few people do, but mostly, I think it’s been relegated to the background, the soundtrack for our busy lives. With records, if you’re going to listen to a record, you have to make that decision. You have to sit down and listen to it. It reminds people that listening to music is actually a legitimate activity that’s been lost.
It’s a very intentional process. When I listen to this record, I can't help but think of guys like Hayes Carll, Sturgill, Isbell, American Aquarium ... I always find myself getting frustrated that you aren't all household names. That being said, thanks to labels like New West and others, you’re able to make new music and get on the road and grow, all seemingly organically. As a guy who’s been doing this for years, is that a frustration you grapple with?
It doesn’t thrill me, but I don’t lose sleep over it. It’s kind of the same way I feel about McDonald’s burgers, right? They're kind of there, they're kind of salty and tasty every once in awhile, but for the most part, they're just empty. It’s just a function of how corporate structures work. That type of music has a different goal.
My music, and the people you mentioned, our goals are to express ourselves. For the most part, I think that other music, their goal is to make money. Fortunately, occasionally one of the good guys leaks through, but, yeah, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it.
Things That Can't Be Undone has, essentially, been a few years in the making. You wrapped up recording in May, you've been promoting it ... With an album like this, when it's done, do you close the book on it and move onto the next project?
Well, there’s a process after we make the record where we have to learn how to play the songs live, because they’re never quite the same. We’re still putting the finishing touches on learning how to play all of the songs live. It’s a unique situation because the guys didn’t know the songs going into the studio, so we’ve had to go back a little and re-learn things from the record.
And, yeah, I’m already starting to think about the next record and side projects and that kind of stuff. But, the main thing on my plate is touring the record for the next year. Where my creative brain is, though, yeah, I’m poking around and starting to think about more stuff for sure.
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