In the HBO Original documentary Jason Isbell: Running With Our Eyes Closed, the multiple Grammy-winning artist strips down the recording process, but also reveals struggles outside of the studio.
“When I have a hard day I can’t just go home and have a drink. There’s no escape for me,” says Isbell, who has been sober for a decade, in this first look at the film’s trailer.
The film, directed by Sam Jones, largely chronicles Isbell recording his 2020 album Reunions with his band, The 400 Unit, and takes its name from a song on the critically acclaimed set. The documentary, which debuts on HBO and streamer HBO Max on April 7, also shows Isbell, like many of us, figuring out how to navigate demons the pandemic lockdown conjures up.
Also weighing in is Isbell’s wife and frequent collaborator Amanda Shires, an acclaimed artist in her own right. “Most people don’t go to work with their wife,” states Isbell, as Shires gives him feedback on how to approach some of his material and he pushes back. “You’re fighting with all these voices inside your head,” she declares.
He also examines the creative process and, as he notes, “Once you write a song, your mind isn’t focused on creating, your mind is focused on re-creating. You can only create something once and if the tape’s not rolling, you’re just sh– out of luck.”
While focusing on the making of Reunions, the documentary also examines Isbell’s childhood in rural Alabama and his years with the Drive-By Truckers. In addition to Isbell and Shires, the film includes interviews with musicians Chad Gamble, Sadler Vaden, Jimbo Hart, Derry DeBorja and Patterson Hood; producer Dave Cobb; and manager Traci Thomas.
HBO Documentary Films made Running in association with Ringer Films, Duplass Brothers Productions and Beware Doll / GraySky. It is the latest installment of the Bill Simmons-created Music Box series, which focuses on pivotal moments in music.
The documentary’s release comes as Isbell and The 400 Unit prepare to release their latest album, Weathervanes, on June 9 via Southeastern Records/Thirty Tigers