John Doe figured out a unique way to finish his forthcoming solo album, “A Year in the Wilderness”: he didn’t give himself a choice.
“The difference between this record and other records I’ve done,” the X and Knitters member told Billboard.com, “is I actually agreed to have a release date before I was finished writing everything — which is really f*cking scary. It was one of those situations where the record company needed a firm release date in November. You’re just saying, ‘OK, I’ve got 10 songs, nine songs, I guess I better get busy.’ Fortunately it all worked out OK.”
“A Year in the Wilderness” will be released on June 12 by Yep Roc. It was co-produced by Doe and longtime collaborator Dave Way and recorded at the Way Station in Los Angeles. Guests include Black Keys’ guitarist Dan Auerbach, well-credentialed pedal steel player Greg Leisz and three duet partners — Aimee Mann, Jill Sobule and Kathleen Edwards, who appears on three tracks and who Doe refers to as “my Emmylou Harris” to his Gram Parsons. He wrote the songs “Darling Underdog” from a set of lyrics given to him by X singer Exene Cervenka.
The album’s 12 songs make reference to interpersonal turbulence and emotional turmoil, and Doe acknowledges, “it was a rough year for me and my family” — although the married father of three prefers to be circumspect about the details: “Oh, you know, just those personal problems. I’m not gonna be tacky and go into details. People have a hard time, don’t they? It’s rough, living. Writing songs is enough. I don’t need to talk about all the little specifics.”
Doe plans to tour in July and August but also has performances booked at South by Southwest and at the Stagecoach festival in Indio, Calif. He also has parts in a couple of upcoming independent films — “Man Maid,” about a man working as a hotel maid, and “Ten Inch Hero,” about a sandwich shop. The Knitters have East Coast dates in April, and X, Doe says, “is taking some time off to try to write some songs and start looking at a new album soon.”