Interview: Gill Landry on New Solo Album, Freedom After Old Crow Medicine Show
"I’d like to believe love always wins coming down the stretch — it just might not be the way you envisioned it," he says. "In my experience love often isn't what I expected and wouldn't be half as good as it was. That basically is what I wrote this album about."
Though some might point at the LP and say it's full of heartache, the truth is Landry provides his listeners with much more than a tale of lost love. He creates hope in the midst of pain, offering his listeners — and himself — a place to grow and emerge from the darkness of a broken heart, solidifying himself as one of the most honest singer-songwriters around today.
As he continues celebrating the release of Love Rides a Dark Horse, Landry is already looking ahead to his next release. Ahead of that, though, the former Old Crow Medicine Show banjoist and co-vocalist caught up with The Boot to chat about the album and what's on his horizon.
First things first: Congrats on the new album. It has to feel good to have this one out.
It feels great. It feels really good. I'm ready to make another one. [Laughs]
This record is deeply personal for you. Did you feel any sense of closure with the release of Love Rides a Dark Horse?
I've passed that point of needing closure. It is really personal, but it's passed that. It's so distant now because I finished it last year. By this point, all the things I was thinking about — although they relate to me still — it's not an open wound or anything. I'm in a totally different place now. That's why I'm ready to make another record. [Laughs]
I want to talk more about your next record, but with Love Rides a Dark Horse, how long did it take you to write it and record it?
It took me longer to write it than it did to record it. I started writing in December 2015 and finished almost a year later, but didn't start the recording until mid-July. I had to stop to tour a bunch of times, and that's usually what makes it take so long. You get in this rhythm and then you break it for a month to be on the road. You can't just go right back ... that's the struggle, time management. It takes a lot of focus, different kinds of focus, for both.
And you produced and engineered it, too, which requires whole other levels of focus.
Yeah, but it gives me a lot more freedom and a lot more wiggle room for a freer life as well, just in general. I'm not stressed about time. That's why I do it that way. I get as close to the result that I want as I can. Studios are expensive. Labels don't pay what they used to. But it helps get a better product for sure. The best part is that I'm not paying a producer or an engineer. If you're paying someone, at least for me because I'm frugal, you don't mess around as much. You have to be more to the point, which isn't always a bad thing. But when it's just me, I can tinker for hours and hours alone since I enjoy it and since I'm not paying myself. [Laughs] That makes it pretty easy.
The only thing that would get me to not produce would be if somebody I really liked was interested in going the distance, you know? I'm not against the approach. It can be good to put yourself in that constraint and you just try to nail it in two weeks. I prefer to have more freedom and time than that, though. It's a struggle. The great thing about having another producer is that they can hold you accountable and say, "Okay, enough!" The producer is also a sounding board for ideas and helps you see things that you can't. I'm open to all of it, really.
I don't want to wait two years to put out the next record. Sometimes you write something and it'd be great to just record it now and put it out.
I already have most of the writing done for this next album. I think records are important and I like sitting with an artist's full idea for 40 minutes or an hour, but I'm thinking that maybe putting out more individual songs might be the way I do it in the future. It's just slightly adapting to the formats, you know? I don't want to wait two years to put out the next record. Sometimes you write something and it'd be great to just record it now and put it out. Why wait?
Margo Price did it with a couple of 7-inches this summer, and I know Drive-By Truckers are releasing a 7-inch of a new song this Christmas.
You post singles, of course. Labels release singles, and with streaming becoming the mainstay, you usually just end up with one song anyway, a song that lands on a playlist. Seven-inches and putting out singles, I think that's great, especially if you write a song that doesn't fit the feel of an entire album. I write all kinds of songs that might not fit, so to be able to release one would be great. But it's all about trying to figure out how to approach it.
Have you had these conversations with your label, ATO?
Yeah, and I have them with my management pretty often, too. It just depends. Maybe they'll hear it and they'll say, "Yeah, we'll pay for that." But they might say, "Well ... I don't know, bud." [Laughs]
This is your first solo album since leaving Old Crow Medicine Show. Was there any negative side to the experience of creating a record without Old Crow in the background?
No, not at all. It was all positive. Creatively speaking, I had only more room, more freedom. When you're in a band, it has a semi-common mind. Yeah, everyone has their own individual thing, but you also have a common thread of thought. With all of that gone, I was able to remember truly what it is that I feel and how I wanted to approach this album. A lot of those voices disappeared and it was actually really helpful. Does that make sense?
Absolutely. It's probably why you're so ready to release your next album, too. Will your next LP follow a theme like Love Rides a Dark Horse does? Not that it's a concept album, but it definitely has this thread of heartache and growth strewn throughout ...
There isn't a concept for the new one, and it definitely isn't as personal. I mean, everything is personal in a way, you know? It just might not be as connected in an immediate way — it doesn't lack depth, though.
When did you start writing this new album?
You just have to write as many songs as you can and see what makes sense.
I never stop writing. I'm always writing. I started some of this when I was writing the other album, and I've been writing all year to keep it rolling and keep the juices flowing, so they don't dry up. [Laughs] It's a bit hard to write on the road, though. It's tragic. I have so many good ideas on the road but you don't have the time to fully follow them, at least for me anyway. All the ones I have now, too, fit in a really broad spectrum. I never really know I'm going until the end. I never say, "I'm going to make this kind of album," you just have to write as many songs as you can and see what makes sense. It's not like I'm sitting down to write a concept album or to write Red Headed Stranger, though I wish I could. [Laughs]
Your last album featured Laura Marling. This album features the likes of Odessa and Klara from First Aid Kit, among others. It seems like you're always looking for a different voice to add a harmony to your tunes.
Not every song calls for a harmony, but I really like my voice with a female voice. I think with this new album it'll be the same. I'd really like to make an album with a different singer on each. Actually, what I'd really like is to write an entire album where I just have women whose voices I love sing my songs and I don't even sing a note on them. I just make the record and they sing all the words. [Laughs] That'll be a hard sell.
But if you find the right voices, that'd be pretty amazing.
That's what I think. One of these days. It's all a time game, man. You have to find the time to do everything you want to do.
On the back of Love Rides a Dark Horse, you give a PO Box and invite fans to drop you a postcard. That's old-school, man.
That's what I used to love. I was a Dead Head when I was a kid and they had their PO Box in Palo Alto and I always loved that. I love sending postcards, and I get them every now and then and it's awesome. When you're having a really s--tty day, it's great to get a postcard and see that someone actually likes your record. I guess I'll march on. [Laughs]
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