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Jason Isbell: ‘I Don’t Believe All Music Is Good’

Jason Isbell good music selling out
Erika Goldring, Getty Images

Jason Isbell is one of a few artists who are changing the face of the country music genre by straying away from the pop-infused aspects of much of modern country music. The singer-songwriter got his start in the band the Drive-By Truckers, and while spending time on the road with his bandmates, he formed his opinions on good and bad music.

“When I joined the Truckers, I was 21 and riding in the van with guys who were a generation older than me. And we spent a lot of time talking about what was bulls–t, what was not real,” Isbell tells GQ. “And I don’t believe all music is okay. I don’t believe all music is good. I believe some music is bad for people to listen to. I think it makes their taste worse, I think it makes their lives worse, I think it makes them worse people.

“Some things you have to refuse, not because of other people’s image of you but because it will gradually erode you until you are making music that’s not good for people and you’re not challenging listeners and you’re not challenging yourself,” he continues. “I believe that, and I will always believe that if I have my way.”

The artist explains that he often looks back to his younger self when facing major career decisions to make sure that he’s not “selling out.”

“I just look at who I was the first year that I played in a rock ‘n’ roll band, and I ask, ‘Would I have thought that was bulls–t back then?’ And usually, if I would have then, I still will now,” he says. “The context — why you play music in the first place — I want to keep that as intact as possible.”

Isbell released his fifth studio album, Something More Than Free, in 2015.

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