Sunday, January 9, 2011

Interview: A Word With Gary Louris of The Jayhawks

The Jayhawks will be reissuing their classic albums, Hollywood Town Hall and Tomorrow The Green Grass on January 18th. The expanded edition of Hollywood Town Hall, the band's Def American debut from 1992, collects the original album’s ten songs with five bonus tracks. Tomorrow The Green Grass: Legacy Edition will be issued as a 2-CD set that adds five previously unreleased songs to the album's original thirteen tracks, and includes a full second disc of unreleased demo recordings by Gary Louris and Mark Olson from 1992, that clocks in over 70 minutes, called the The Mystery Demos. 

Before embarking on a run of live performances to commemorate the expanded reissues of the band's two classic albums (go to for tickets), and while also working on new Jayhawks material, Gary Louris was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to discuss his experiences revisiting these classic albums, the upcoming live performances, the writing process of these records, and his influences during this era.   

How does it feel to be revisiting Hollywood Town Hall and Tomorrow the Green Grass as reissues?

Gary Louris: A flood of memories. Hard work, LA, George, Hollywood Sound, Oceanway, Sound City, the big earthquake in ’94, exciting times. The music has stood up over time.

What does it mean to you to be performing these albums in their entirety?

GL: I'm not sure how I feel about that. It could be interesting. Especially if we can add some of the bonus tracks from the reissues into the evening. We have never done that before. I remember Cheap Trick coming to Minneapolis years ago and playing something like 7 nights in a row, doing that, starting with their first record. It could be fun.

How do you see each of these albums in your trajectory as a songwriter, and how have the experiences from these albums influenced your work since?

GL: I think we fell into a blueprint or an M.O. of how we write together over the course of these two records. To this day, Mark and I write together in the same way. We like to work fast. Once it is done, we don’t second guess ourselves too much. We move on to the next song.

There was an evolution to our songwriting over the course of those records which continues to this day as we bring in our new experiences as people living in this world. But we really established our ‘sound’ over these two records.

I know a lot of time has passed, but can you recall some of your influences at the time when you  were working on Hollywood Town Hall ? And around the time of Tomorrow The Green Grass?

GL: I grew up an anglophile so I was, and still am, pulled to The Beatles, The Kinks, etc. But back then, I am sure we were listening to the Flying Burrito Brothers,  Neil Young,  Bob Dylan, The Band,  Nick Drake, you know,  the building blocks of 60’s and 70’s American music. I remember listening to Tom T. Hall, The Louvin Brothers, Merle Haggard, Sir Douglas Quintet, along with the Pet Sounds era of The Beach Boys.

When you and Mark Olson got together and worked on 2009’s Ready For The Flood, how did the collaborative process differ from working as The Jayhawks? How did this experience lay the groundwork for more recordings together?

GL: We were touring on it around the time of the big flu scare and we were traveling alot, to Australia, New Zealand, along with Europe and America. We saw many people wearing those protective masks.  I thought a smart merch move would have been to sell them at our shows with the title “Ready For The Flu” on them but I don’t think Mark was so into the idea. 

The songwriting processs was and still remains basically the same. The difference really was that it was the first time we really recorded just the two of us. We were going for live performances, just the two of us, sitting across from each other with acoustic guitars. Just like when we write together.

Can you describe the current songwriting process of The Jayhawks? When can fans expect to hear these recordings?

GL: Mark and I still write the same way. We feed off each other and fill in each other’s spaces and somehow, it all works in this magical way.  

I hope for the new record to see the light of day in late spring or early summer.

What have you been listening to lately?

GL: The new Jayhawks mixes. Pretty much that and some classical music. I always love Odysssey and Oracle by The Zombies.

When can fans expect to see the band on the road again?

GL: We hope to be on the road quite a bit this summer throught the fall. Europe, America and wherever we are wanted. Can’t wait.

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