Interview: Jeremy Ivey ‘Feels the Fever’ of Creativity After Finishing Long-Awaited Debut Album
Jeremy Ivey might have just released his debut album, The Dream and the Dreamer, on Friday (Sept. 13), but he's far from a novice. The singer-songwriter has been writing and performing for years, most recently as a guitarist for his wife, country star Margo Price, who also produced his forthcoming new project.
Back when Price was working to launch her own career, Ivey explains, he threw his weight behind that task, waiting until her musical career was successful and stable before turning his attention to his own solo pursuits. "I really believed in her, and wanted to see that happen," he says.
"Once it did happen, I found myself still co-writing with her, but sometimes writing songs that I knew she wasn't gonna sing," Ivey adds. "Really, the reason [my album is going out now] is because she's alright, everything with her is good, and I don't have to be as attentive to that anymore. But I think it's [also] just about looking around at the songs I had that no one was gonna sing."
Ivey's solo album began with the song "Diamonds Back to Coal," a track he loved but knew would be outside Price's wheelhouse. After realizing it could be the genesis of his own project, he went on a spree, writing about four songs over the span of a couple days. The singer recalls this periods as a particularly politically fraught time -- the 2017 Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting had just happened -- and while that tragedy and the surrounding cultural chaos certainly affected his music, he says he wasn't trying to respond directly to his political surroundings.
"I honestly don't think anyone's done that right since Dylan," he explains. "You kind of expose yourself as being small-minded whenever you pick a side, and that's only because -- I mean, yeah, there are good points on both sides, but really, if you're harping at just one side of an argument, you have a closed perspective.
One perk of waiting as long as he did to release an album? "I feel like if I've learned anything not putting music out all these years is, I've learned what not to say," he adds with a laugh.
It was a lesson that Ivey often had to learn from experience. "Me and Margo, our first band in Nashville was called Secret Handshake. And it was all trying to be kind of political, sociopolitical songs," he recounts. "We had some songs that were pretty overt. We had a song called "Architects of War," you know? ... Even at the time, I don't think people really enjoyed it! It was like going to get punished, if you went to go see us play."
As they matured, the young musicians learned to soften their edges. Of course, that doesn't mean that Ivey doesn't talk about difficult issues in his music; he's still got no problem putting out a song that addresses a controversial topic, if it's something he believes in. Rather, Ivey clarifies, he's learned not to think of others' motives in black-and-white terms.
"When it comes down to details in peoples' lives, why they act a certain way and why they believe in a certain way, and their upbringing -- you can't really judge a person for what you haven't been through," Ivey points out. "I guess what not to say is that you know what other people are going through."
From a messaging standpoint, The Dream and the Dreamer seeks to question, not explain. Musically, the record had humble beginnings, too: Ivey and his band cut the project in two days, without many bells and whistles, or even advance preparation.
"I always kind of like to surprise musicians, because I feel like instinctually, you play something from your gut when you're not thinking about it," he explains. "When you're thinking about it, it comes from your head."
That goes for Ivey himself, too, both as a songwriter and as a performer. "I always say that first thought is best thought. We overthink a lot of things, you know, in our society, and I guess it's coming from a good place. But I say first thought is best thought," he muses. "... If you come from a pure place, your first reaction's gonna be your best. "
The singer allows that his straightforward, off-the-cuff approach to recording will likely evolve into something a bit more carefully planned as he continues to make records. Ivey waited a long time to make his first album, but he's wasting no time in putting together his next. "I actually just got done recording a second record. So yeah, I work way too fast," he says. "And I'm honestly writing the third one now.
"I feel like at some point the creative juice is gonna run out a little bit, but I feel the fever of it, so I'm just rolling whatever direction it goes," he notes. "As far as recording goes, I know the first two are pretty simple. Maybe the third one will be a little more complicated."
"I feel like if I've learned anything not putting music out all these years is, I've learned what *not* to say."
After all, Ivey wasn't always certain he would be able to put a record out at all. Now that he has the opportunity, he's taking every chance he can to put music out into the world.
"I was really surprised that Anti [Records] wanted to put it out. The reason it was Anti, and I had a couple other offers, but [Anti] heard the record not knowing I was married to Margo," Ivey reveals. "That was a little bit important to my own sanity, for people not to sign me based on the fact that Margo produced it, or any of that stuff.
"I didn't want a leg up. I just wanted to make something that's good," he adds. "So now that I have this opportunity that I never thought I'd have, I kind of want to put a record out every year."
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