Jamestown Revival felt they needed to explain a thing or two about the album they were about to release, so the Austin-based duo wrote a letter to their fans. Now signed to Republic Records, and with a hit single, the anthemic “California,” and a noted album, “Utah,” behind them, and with their second record, “The Education of a Wandering Man,” done, the harmonizing high-lonesome twosome posted the letter on their website, explaining the creative struggle after their sudden fame. The pair, Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance, spoke with us from Austin, just a few days before their second album was released on Oct. 7. They had about a week of rehearsals and then off they would go, a-wandering, on tour with their band.
You say in your open letter that you struggled with getting going on your second record. Was there any one thing that helped you switch your mind-set from stuck?
Jonathan Clay: Yeah, it was “Love is a Burden.” It was a metaphor for what had happened with “California.” That song has afforded us opportunities, but it almost paralyzed us because we wondered, would we ever write anything as good as California again? It was a burden, a hindrance in a way. We just had to let it go.
Zach Chance: We wanted to continue to tell the story. We had a bunch of false starts; we did have some wastebasket days. But once we got back to Austin, we found that we did have something to say, instead of reaching for something to say.
Clay: Zach and I can’t write a song unless we do have something to say.
Is the song “American Dream” also about disillusionment?
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Clay: It also came out of feeling down. I was at home with my wife: we have a baby and a new home, but the AC broke and the roof was leaking, and all these things felt so oppressive. Then, we were out riding our horses and we stopped by a tree, and this songbird was sitting there singing his little song. We thought what a simple, beautiful existence. We just asked ourselves, this is what we work for, all these problems? We work very hard to achieve this level of complication in our lives.
You two have known each other for half your lives; did you meet in high school in Magnolia, Texas?
Chance: Yup, trigonometry class. I remember my first day at school and it was like “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”—I feared for my education! But we met and we wrote our first song at age 15.
Clay: That one’s locked in a vault somewhere. I don’t know if it will ever see the light of day.