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Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit on stage - Odessa American: Music

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Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit on stage

Group just won two Grammy Awards

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Posted: Friday, April 20, 2018 2:30 am

Jason Isbell is fresh off a double Grammy win and is touring with his longtime band the 400 Unit in support of the critically acclaimed new album “The Nashville Sound.”

The album debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard Top 200 and recently garnered two Grammy Awards (Best Americana Album and Best American Roots Song, “If We Were Vampires”) as well as a nomination for CMA Album Of The Year. That tour brings him to the Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center on April 30.

Isbell, speaking by phone from his tour near Clearwater, Florida, said the recent Grammy wins were not his first but his first with the 400 Unit. “

“It was good … pretty special to win with the band and it’s always fun to see celebrities and get to dress up. These things are always better when you win.”

He said awards do matter and that he is certainly grateful for the sense of legitimacy awards give artists for the work. “But I know there are many people who are very deserving who have not won.”

Isbell has been called one of the most respected and celebrated songwriters of his generation. Isbell’s poignant song “If We Were Vampires” was featured recently in the New York Times Magazine as one of “25 Songs That Tell Us Where Music Is Going.”

The song is not just an award winner – it’s an attention getter with haunting themes of mortality and love and the knowledge that “one of us will have to be alone.”

He said he really was watching the TV reality series “Hoarders” when his wife (violinist Amanda Shires) told him to get back to work. He said he wrote the song that day.

“I started from scratch – I had some chords but nothing else. I tried to take apart the idea of a love song and started by considering what do people usually say are motivations from falling in love or telling someone you are in love with them.”

He said it is rare in love songs to hear about time and how it erodes and how it motivates in terms of love. “It is going through things and expressing how you feel directly fueled by the fact that no one is going to be around forever.”

He said a song idea sometimes comes from something he hears or reads or on TV. “A big part of my job as a songwriter is paying attention and looking for those things.”

“The Nashville Sound” is the follow up to 2015’s successful “Something More Than Free,” which also netted two Grammy Awards and critical praise. The new album, Isbell’s first with the 400 Unit since 2011’s “Here We Rest,” received stellar reviews from NPR Music and Rolling Stone.

Isbell, who grew up near Muscle Shoals, learned to sing and pick as a child. His own daughter, Mercy Rose, is only 2 and she already can sing along.

While in Florida he took Mercy Rose to the beach and said he loves the time he spends with his wife and daughter.

Isbell has had a successful solo career and was also a member of Drive-by Truckers from 2001 until 2007. He has said his musical influences run from Neal Young to Bob Dylan.

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