Songwriting Reunites Jayhawks Principals
Gary Louris and Mark Olson, the one-time co-frontmen for the Jayhawks, recently reunited for a brief songwriting session, the fruits of which will most likely show up on Olson's next solo album. At thGary Louris and Mark Olson, the one-time co-frontmen for the Jayhawks, recently reunited for a brief songwriting session, the fruits of which will most likely show up on Olson's next solo album. At the request of the producers of the forthcoming film "The Rookie," Louris and Olson got together last October at the latter's home in Joshua Tree, Calif., to write a few songs for the movie.
Due March 29 in U.S. theaters, the film tells the story of Jim Morris, a Texas high school baseball coach and one-time minor league baseball player who later in life fulfilled a lifelong dream to play professional baseball when the Tampa Bay Devil Rays added him to the roster in 1999.
Though the songs Louris and Olson wrote weren't ultimately used in the film, Louris tells Billboard.com that Olson will probably include the track "Say You'll Be Mine" on his next solo album, and that Louris may eventually record one of the new co-writes himself.
Olson left the Minneapolis-based Jayhawks in 1995, following the tour supporting the band's acclaimed third album, "Tomorrow the Green Grass." While the Jayhawks pressed on with Louris leading, Olson went on to co-found the Original Harmony Ridge Creek Dippers with his wife, fellow singer/songwriter Victoria Williams, and Mike "Razz" Russell.
"We remained friends and we just haven't ever really gotten back to writing songs," says Louris. "And this is not going to be something that's going to be an everyday thing. But it just happened to be that somebody wanted us to do it, so they kind of arranged it. And we had such a good time that we thought, 'Well, maybe we'll do it again sometime.'"
Meanwhile, Louris says the latest incarnation of the Jayhawks will enter a Los Angeles studio by May 1 to begin work on its next studio effort. The band, which is now a four-piece -- Louris, bassist Marc Perlman, drummer Tim O'Regan, and new member Stephen McCarthy (Longriders, Gutterball) -- has been demoing songs of late.
Although he's tight-lipped on who will be helming the project, Louris says the executive producer will be Rick Rubin, on whose American label the Jayhawks have released three of their five albums. "I've been working with him pretty closely," Louris says of Rubin. "On this record, it's much more where I'm playing the songs for him and he's giving me suggestions at a very early period of what he thinks are the strong songs."
Says Rubin, "He's got a bunch of great [songs]. I've always felt that Gary's an amazing songwriter who maybe didn't always put in all the work for the good ideas to be great -- and he's doing it on this album." Louris says more than 30 songs are in the can, 10 of which he deems "really good"
Since forming more than 15 years ago, the Jayhawks have gone through a number of lineup changes, with Louris and Perlman remaining as constants. On its last album, 2000's "Smile," the group included now-departed members Kraig Johnson -- a collaborator of Louris' in his side project Golden Smog -- and ex-Dag keyboardist Jen Gunderman.
Johnson and Gunderman's departures have more to do with their living in different states than anything musically or personally, Louris says. But the changes also came at a time when he, Perlman, and O'Regan were looking to do something a little different. "A lot of things are going to sound a lot less full without Jen," he says. "But I think we want to do something more stripped down at this point."
Providing a new twist is McCarthy, Louris adds. "He's a great guitar player-singer. He's a little bit more of a country vein than what we've had before. He plays pedal steel and all that stuff, so we've been going a little bit more in that direction, at least live."