Learning Arabic as an Air Force translator helped Jason Eady write better country songs.
“It definitely made me realize that everybody is the same,” said Eady, who’s scheduled to play with his band Saturday at The Blue Door. “Everybody has the same concerns and the same day-to-day thoughts and things that they want out of life. All this stuff that we kind of try to blow up as being different and our differences, that’s a pretty manufactured concept. It doesn’t really exist. The average person is the average person. They just want a good life for their family. They just want to provide for their family. They want to enjoy life and have positive experiences. It’s a pretty universal theme that we have here as humans.”
While studying other cultures helped Eady discover universal themes and desires, writing about the actual positive experiences people strive for has proven difficult.
“There’s two things that it took me a while to figure out as a songwriter,” Eady said. “Writing positive lyrics is harder to do, and writing simple lyrics is harder to do. … It’s easier to get bogged down and sad, depressed.”
I Travel On, slated for an August 10 official release but available for purchase at Saturday’s show, finds the Fort Worth-based musician — whose previous work beginning with self-released 2005 debut From Underneath the Old, has frequently examined topics like alcohol abuse and failed relationships and earned favorable comparisons to Willie Nelson and Don Williams — drawing more inspiration from the happiness in his personal life.
“That was very intentional,” Eady said. “I’ve sung sad songs and written sad songs and written serious and really deep songs. That’s kind of my natural place to go with things, but this is my seventh album, and I just can’t do that every single time. It’s too much. I didn’t have a lot of intentional things going into writing this record. It was very much a ‘Let’s see how this goes’ type of process, but that was the one thing that was very intentional. I definitely want this record to feel good and I want it be one that if you want to listen to the lyrics, if you want to get something out of them, it’s there and you can do it, but if you don’t and you just want to put it on and have something that feels good, then that’s there too. There’s a lot of negative going on right now in the world in general … and the last thing I wanted to do was add to that.”
Eady said his own life is going so well that writing songs about heartbreak or depression would feel false.
“The band is the exact band that I’ve been looking for my whole life,” Eady said. “I’ve got a great marriage. I’m touring around the country and people are showing up at shows. I have the freedom now to go into the studio and make any kind of record I want to make. … I’m very much in a good place right now, and if I’m going to be authentic in my lyrics and be authentic in what I’m saying, it has to reflect that. If I were to go out now and write a sad record or something, then that’s not me being me; that’s me doing something because I think that’s what people want to hear, which is what I really try not to do.”
Joining Eady and his four-piece touring band on I Travel On are bluegrass duo Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley and Eady’s wife, singer/songwriter Courtney Patton, who Eady describes as “a genius musically.” Eady was so excited by the energy of the band playing in the studio that he quickly resolved to compile his latest album from live, self-contained takes.
“When we got in the studio and sat down with those other two guys and did that first song, we knew what it was going to be,” Eady said, “and once it started happening, we thought, ‘If we go in and start doing a bunch of overdubs and retakes and punches and all these things that you do in the studio, we’re just going to start messing it up. We’re going to muddle it up. We’ve got to just let it be what it is.’”
Tracks such as “Always a Woman” and “The Climb” find the singer exploring new territory, sonically and lyrically. By focusing on the music first this time, Eady said he was able to enjoy how lyrics sounded instead of fretting over what they meant.
“Some of my favorite writers, Paul Simon and John Prine and guys like that, their lyrics feel good, and sometimes you don’t even know what they’re talking about and sometimes I don’t even think they know what they’re talking about,” Eady said. “I think they just say things because it sounds good in the meter and the melody of the lyric and the rhythm pattern of the lyric. It feels good to sing, and it feels good to listen to. I’ve never really approached it like that. I’m an editor. I’ll go back and edit my lyrics and make sure I’m saying exactly what I want to say, but this time I laid off of that part of it.
“I didn’t really change my writing process. I changed my editing process on this one. If it felt good to say it a certain way, and it felt like it was really working with the meter and the music and things like that, I would just leave it alone because this is the first record I’ve done where the music definitely came first. I’m still very proud of the lyrics, and every song says something, and every song I still definitely stand behind each one of the lyrics and intentionally try to do something with each song, but the music was the reason the songs came into being. I knew what the sound was. I knew what we were doing with the band on the road. I knew what was going on and I wrote around that idea, that feeling of, ‘Just let the music lead it. Just let it feel good.’”
Eady and his band return to The Blue Door, 2805 N. McKinley Ave., which the singer calls “a special place” and one of the first venues he ever performed at outside of Texas, 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $25-$30. Visit bluedoorokc.com.