In an interview to discuss Shooter Jennings‘ new album Countach (For Giorgio), the topic shifted to a recent Billboard article (thanks for reading, Shooter!) about frequent collaborator Dave Cobb’s Grammy nominations. In the article, Cobb is quoted as saying, “I wouldn’t be here in Nashville were it not for Shooter Jennings.”
“That is giving me too much credit, first of all,” Jennings tells Billboard. “I learned a lot from Dave. We jumped in on the first record and became best friends. We’re still so close. When we get on the phone, it’s like a pair of 15-year-olds. We end up laughing and cutting jokes and coming up with outlandish ideas that never happen, but we’ve been able to make some of them happen.”
Jennings stresses it’s a mutual admiration society. “As much as he gushes about me, I’ve got to gush about him. There were so many people who told him he wasn’t going to make it the way he was doing it. So, for him to go there and work hard and get to where he’s at, it couldn’t make me more proud and happy of the time we spent together. I learned so much from him. Dave Cobb is someone who shows up every day and is playing guitar and never takes his eye off the ball. That’s what the greats in music do. The music is in great hands as long as he’s making it.”
As far as Shooter’s music goes, it’s as eclectic as ever these days. Countach (For Giorgio) — due out on vinyl Feb. 26 and on CD March 11 — is a tribute record to songs composed or inspired by production pioneer Giorgio Moroder. Jennings said the composer’s music has inspired him for years. “The way that I realized his influence was Daft Punk‘s 2013 studio album Random Access Memories, which he collaborated on,” Jennings said. “There’s a song on it called ‘Giorgio by Moroder,’ where he talks for a minute about making music. What he said was really exciting. I heard his name so much that I never did my homework. Then, I looked up Art Bell’s theme music on his Coast to Coast radio show, The Neverending Story and things like Metropolis, which I had never seen. It was all one guy. I started to explore his songs.”
The album manages to bring together several of the singer’s favorite artists, all very unique. Steve Young, best known for gritty songs like “Seven Bridges Road” and “Lonesome, On’ry and Mean” (recorded by Shooter’s father, Waylon Jennings) guests on the musically adventurous “Born to Die.” He says that Young’s friendship came along at a time when he really needed a mentor.
“He and I became friends a while back when I started to write what became the Family Man record in 2012. It was at a time when I was kind of insecure. I had left Universal, and made the Black Ribbons record. … I felt I had failed. I had done something really daring, and there was this group that liked it, but other things weren’t going well. I had just gotten down on myself and was very confused. Steve became this force that talked to me and told me some stories. He and I became great friends. I went to visit him a couple of times, and I cut ‘White Trash’ on The Other Life. He’s such a powerful songwriter, and that’s where his interaction in my life began. Then, when I started this record, I had discovered this early song of Giorgio’s called ‘Born to Die,’ and to me, it sounded like something Steve Young would have done. I tried to get his vocal in there the best that I could. I wanted him to be represented on the record.”
In addition to Young, Brandi Carlile makes her presence known on the cover of “The Neverending Story,” while rocker Marilyn Manson guests on David Bowie‘s “Cat People,” which closes out the disc. Working with Manson was a moment that Jennings treasured, he said. “I had invited him out one night in L.A. He’s always a good one to bring to a party. I came out and asked him if he knew ‘Cat People.’ As it turned out, it was one of his favorite songs. He always warms up shows with it. I went over to his house at 3 in the morning, and he just sang it right there. I only had one set of headphones, so when he was doing the vocals, I was in the room with him. It was such a trip to hear how much character was there. It was basically his first take.”
Though Jennings has been done with the album for close to a year, the timeliness of the project couldn’t have been any more spot-on with the recent death of Bowie, who recorded the song in 1983.
“He was so big to me. I think the first older artist I related to and loved was Bowie. My wife and I had a friend over, and I played them his version of ‘Across the Universe’ from The Young Americans record. It was such a great performance, and he was killing it. In that moment, she looked at her phone and told me that David Bowie had died. I couldn’t believe it. The next day, I was crying like a baby at the bar. Having the Bowie song on the record ended up meaning so much more and brought this weight to it.”
Jennings is currently in the studio, wrapping up work on an upcoming project from songstress Julie Roberts.
Shooter Jennings’ concert dates:
February 19 – San Francisco, CA
February 20 – Santa Ana, CA
February 21 – Solana Beach, CA
March 4 – San Luis Obispo, CA
March 5 – Santa Cruz, CA
March 6 – Napa, CA
March 17 – Dickson, TN
March 18 – Louisville, KY
March 19 – Dayton, OH
March 20 – Greensburg, IN