FOR gothic TV addicts, True Blood is something of a dramatic staple. But while gripping blood-thirsty drama lovers, the American HBO drama is not known for its country music. however, the typical platform for a lyrical country singer. So it may come as a surprise that the programme makers chose country singer song writer Jace Everett’s Bad Things as True Blood’s opening track.
Here, against a visual backdrop of gospel singers, clap-board houses, strippers and old men, Everett’s spaghetti-Western guitar, sultry, whiskey-infused, lusty lyrics bumble along incongruously. It’s sexy, catchy and edgy. Indeed, Everett’s appearance on True Blood has catapulted him from country venues to millions of TV sets across the globe.
“It’s been a great thing. Obviously,” says Everett. “More folks are aware of me and therefore might give my other stuff a listen and come see a show. There’s always the concern that one becomes a “one hit Johnny”. But that’s not something I can control, other than to try and have another hit! Bad Things was written in 2002, recorded in 2004, and a commercial failure in 2005. But I always thought it was a cool tune.”
And while having written a song that has been used for a commercial agenda has proven fruitful, Everett’s keen to point out he doesn’t write to order: “Now that Bad Things is a hit it’s pretty gratifying. The thing about a hit though is that it takes a lot of fortunate circumstances to become one - many of which are out of your control. So, rather than try to write songs for a certain market I do my best to write songs that I want to hear. It may take some time for a given song to catch on, but if I believe in it then it’s a good song for me.”
The Indiana-born singer songwriter is still true to his country roots, homage to his upbringing: “I grew up listening to country and gospel music, almost exclusively. I didn’t get into rock and roll until I was a late teenager. I have a real affection for country. But, just as I am with any other genre, I’m pretty choosy about what I like in country. The majority of what is considered country in the States today I really can’t stand. It’s a very weak cup of tea, if you will.”
Rather, Everett’s more likely to be listening to a strong blend of Willie Nelson, Roger Miller and Kris Kristofferson. “My music has evolved and mutated over the years and I don’t actually sound like those early influences at all, but hopefully the spirit is still there. I’m not really interested in being an Outlaw Country Revue act. I’d rather emulate the ethos - respect the past, honour the song craft and move the music forward.”
But moving music forward is not – according to Everett – a key feature of the country music scene: “I’m really confused by what the country scene is in America today. You seem to have the ‘traditionalist’ camp that tends to emulate, or at least perpetuate, the country of the past and then you have the ‘modern’ camp, which seems to emulate whatever was successful in the pop world a few years before. As far as country radio in the States goes, it’s a pretty sorry affair, in my book. They play the same ten to 15 songs all day and it’s pretty pointless.”
When it comes to writing music, Everett takes a philosophical stance: “Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Marvin Gaye [are influences] but again it goes back to how they did what they did, rather than what they actually did. You can hear all sorts of influences in my music. And those influences change with the wind. There’s only 26 letters in the alphabet. That’s all you get to use for lyrics. There’s only 12 notes in western music. That’s all you get for a melody. So I guess what I love about those guys is how they synthesized so many different artists that came before them and created something that seemed “fresh”. That’s all I’m trying to achieve. There’s nothing new under the sun, a fella once said. It’s all on how we refract the light.”
Jace Everett plays at The Greystones, Greystones Road, on Monday, May 30.