Shooter Jennings’ ‘The Other Life’ Takes Trip to the Darker Side
When Shooter Jennings named his just released album The Other Life, he didn't mean to entice fans with songs about a secret life they know nothing about. Instead, Shooter, the son of Jessi Colter and the late Waylon Jennings, says the songs cover aspects of his darker side.
"Five of these songs were recorded when we were doing Family Man (Shooter's last album), and when we were deciding what to do with it we broke it up into two records. The Other Life is representative of the other side of the coin from Family Man and the way my life has been going in a lot of ways," Shooter tells The Boot. "The song represented the overall theme of the record.
"At first we were going to call it The Outsider, but once we got into the film we thought, 'Well, it's like a mirror, a dark mirror of what Family Man was.' The record deals with the darker side, while Family Man was pretty positive. Not that The Other Side is negative, but it's a more realistic representation of the other side of me. I'm 33, figuring life out, and there is a lot of light and dark going back and forth. This record encapsulates that, accepting oneself and the helter-skelter of life."
The film Shooter is referring to is a 32-minute movie, utilizing six of the songs from the album. Working with Blake Judd and R.D. Hall, Shooter's film is about a man saying goodbye to his family and hitting the road. When he does, he finds the road is not the same, and he becomes haunted by a mysterious woman who is more than what she seems. The man is forced to face his other side and deal with self-discovery, temptation, isolation and rebirth.
"The film came about as we got deeper into the record," Shooter explains. "I formed a friendship with Blake and we wanted to do something that would expand on the theme of the record. I'm a big fan of visual arts and music with video, and with this record I was able to do it. This is like me as an artist, doing visual counterparts ... as an artist this is what I want to kind of always be doing ... helping take what the record is and make it into something else. This one is dark, visual, scary ... kind of a Stephen King thing."
Fans may get to see the film at local film festivals around the country, as Shooter says they're working on showing it at several of them, including Nashville and Los Angeles. He added that they're also trying to get a few theaters to show it as well.
"We're looking at different avenues and shows and special viewings, just working lots of different angles, unveiling it organically. The way we did it is uncharted territory in many ways, so we're finding different avenues to bring people out to shows to give them this visual experience. R.D. is writing the comic book and graphic novel [to accompany the film] and we all collaborated on the script."
The film isn't meant to be an opening for Shooter to pitch his acting skills. "I wouldn't be interested unless it was me playing myself," he explains. "I'm more interested in the making of the film. I'm more into the behind-the-scenes part, much more interested in that."
The CD has some very diverse songs on it, from the opening number with its dark tones, "The Flying Saucer Song," to the bluegrass feel of "Outlaw You," in which Shooter addresses today's country music trend of name-dropping legends in song and singing about dirt roads, although he doesn't drop any names as to whom he's referring to in the song. The singer-songwriter says he thinks younger artists don't realize that the name "outlaw" didn't mean being a badass, but had a totally different meaning to those who wore it back then.
"I've had lots of fans and other artists say 'How dare you talk about this?' I knew there would be negativity from it, but I wasn't trying to put negativity out there. I don't look at getting in a fight with them, I'm upset that these dudes are using the outlaw moniker because I don't think they realize where outlaw came from. My dad and Willie [Nelson] were fighting for their music. My dad didn't like the term; he thought it took away from the music. I'm just trying to put for the the truth about the scenario. I would be happy if they put that word away entirely."
While Shooter wrote most of the CD, he recorded a couple outside songs, including one penned by Steve Young, who wrote Waylon's "Lonesome, O'nry and Mean" and "Seven Bridges Road," by the Eagles.
"Steve and I became friends, and he helped me in my confidence on writing Family Man, so when I ran across 'The White Trash Song' I wanted to do it," Shooter says of the tune, which summarizes the life of a beer-loving man who lost his church woman to Jimmy Swaggart and winds up in jail. "I brought Scott [H. Biram] in, who is one of my favorite artists and friends, to sing on it with me."
Another song, "Wild and Lonesome," features Patty Griffin. (Listen to the song here.) Shooter says he wrote the song in about an hour. "It just came out. I was able to feel and relate to it. When I was writing it, I just followed the words wild and lonesome, and it just kinda came out. I was writing how I felt at the time.
"We went in the studio and I wanted a female voice on it, I thought that would be nice. I remembered Patty doing 'Rose in Paradise' with Kris [Kristofferson] on the Waylon tribute so I reached out to her and she said yes. I am honored to have her on it."
Shooter says the best way he can describe the album is that it is where he is right now. "As I've gotten older, I'm bringing in all my influences into my records without worrying about it. I'm coming into my own. I'd suggest fans buy the first song, 'Flying Saucer,' and if they understand it, they'll know what the album is about."
As for what he found out about himself as he explored his darker side, Shooter pauses before answering. "I guess I discovered that I'm a lot more dangerous than I thought I was," he says. "I'm just trying to figure out how to navigate life and leave the biggest trail of debris that I can behind."
While Shooter promotes his own album, another is also on his mind these days. Kentucky duo Ashes and Angels released Fifth on the Floor, produced by Shooter, on the same day The Other Life hit shelves.
Shooter is also involved in a film on his dad's life which will focus on the years when Waylon was fighting the Nashville establishment to record music the way he wanted to record it, which helped define the aforementioned Outlaw movement. At the same time, the singer was fighting his personal demons and trying to carve his own niche in music.
"We're working on the script and already have the outline for it," Shooter notes. "I'm pleased with it, and we'll release more information on it in the near future."
Shooter resumes touring in April with two dates in Texas: April 11 in San Marcos and April 13 in Winnie.