Most of the songs on Texas singer-songwriter Jamie Lin Wilson’s upcoming second solo album, Jumping Over Rocks, were written especially for the project. But the deeply personal “Death & Life,” premiering below, has a significantly longer history.
“I’ve wanted to write that song for about four years,” Wilson tells Billboard about the track, which contains the album’s title in its lyric. “Every time someone lately has asked me what my favorite track is, I’ve chosen that one.”
“Death & Life” contains verses about Wilson’s husband Roy being charged to build a casket for his father when he died — and then having one of their sons born on the father’s birthday three years later — and about a widow friend grappling with her loss. The final verse, about children hopping over gravestones during funerals, comes from watching her own at funerals the family has attend. “It adds some levity to something that’s so heavy, for children to just be so accepting of the circle of life,” Wilson explains.
“Death & Life” finally got its moment as Wilson started work on Jumping Over Rocks at Arlyn Studios in Austin, Texas with a group of ace players that included Charlie Sexton on guitar.
“I didn’t have it finished,” Wilson recalls. “I had it about halfway finished. After the second day in the studio I went back to my hotel room and sat and played and finished it. I think that maybe being there in a creative space with all the music happening around me and seeing the vibe kind of let me go, ‘Alright, now I can finish the song.’ I’m so happy it happened.
“It’s so heavy. It made my mom cry. She told me, ‘I don’t know how you expect people to like such sad songs.’ But it’s not sad. It’s saying, ‘Aren’t we lucky to be able to see that, to know that everything comes back around and keeps going — life after death in the real world.'”
After tenures in bands such as the Gougers and the Trishas, Jumping Over Rocks follows Wilson’s 2015 solo debut, and after touring extensively to support it and also raising three children (now four as of a month ago), Wilson found herself with a paucity of material, so she set a studio deadline for February of this year to come up with songs for the album. “I had most of the songs marinating in my brain for a very long time,” she says, “and I just trusted myself to have them done by the time I got in (to the studio).” But Wilson did know how exactly how she wanted Jumping Over Rocks, due out Oct. 26, to sound.
“Completely live — vocals in particular,” she says. “I wanted it to be moody and vibey and organic sounding. I think if you get a really great band together and just trust them and trust their instinct and their ability to do it, then it happens. So everything the listener hears on the record is how it came out as it went by.” That attitude also helped Wilson overcome any nerves that may have accompanied a second solo venture.
“There seems to be a lot of pressure on the sophomore album, but I didn’t feel that,” she notes. “I kinda felt like the pressure was lifted a little bit because I did know exactly how I wanted to record for a long time. I just went, ‘This is how I want to do it,’ and if this is the last record I ever make, I did it exactly as I wanted to.”