When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, Jason Eady had an entirely different album he intended to bring to the studio that April. As time passed, and chaos ensued, that project no longer felt like an accurate response to the moment. The time between was “panic time”—trying to figure out what’s next.
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When June came along, Eady joined forces with like-minded writers facing the same block he was experiencing at home. Each week, a song was due based on an assigned prompt, and to his delight, it worked. In these weekly sessions, he excavated three songs—which would be recorded for Eady’s latest album, To the Passage of Time—his sixth studio album released August 27 via Old Guitar Records.
“It really got the wheels turning,” Eady tells American Songwriter about the album. “That’s kind of the point of those things, but it was incredibly effective at the time, and really got things moving in the right direction.”
One song from those early sessions is “Back to Normal,” a clear-cut pandemic anthem, penned from the yearning perspective of wondering what a world after this present reality might be like. Broadly, it considers the meaning of “normal” within an unconventional context.
Eady continued with the group through June and July, and when started up again in August, he continued on his own. At home, inspiration struck in an unexpected way, and it “just kept coming.” Taking advantage of the sudden spark, Eady locked himself in a room for a day, capturing the flooding imagery as it came to him.
“I woke up the next morning, I just thought ‘I wonder if it’s still in here?'” he recalls. “So I grabbed a guitar and immediately wrote another song that next morning,” Eady excitedly recalls. “And then I thought ‘Okay, whatever’s going on here, I need to stick with it.’ And so I just stayed locked up in that room.”
For three days and three nights, he plugged away, pulling inspiration from the deepest corners of his psyche. His wife, Courtney was concerned at first. But once she heard him play song after new song, as a writer herself, she caught on. Eady adds, “Courtney started bringing food up to my room, nursing the inspired moments because it’s so rare.”
Another song, “Saturday Night,” captures the experience well. It was the last song he wrote during his self-imposed retreat, and his wife helped wrap it up. It is an intentionally redundant tune, one that could easily be drowned out by the noise around it if it weren’t for Eady’s artistic touch.
The gentle tune, “These Things,” is a hat-in-his-hand and heart-on-his-sleeve offering to the listener, laying his faults out on the table. “Nothing On You” feels like a tribute to his wife Courtney, from the perspective of a 46-year-old, still growing in love. Yet, he’s able to flip the lens, seeing life through external eyes. His Bluegrass-tinged “The Luxury of Dreaming” puts things into perspective, chronicling the hardship of a single mother overburdened by her day-to-day struggle to the point she is unable to envision the big-picture hopes for her future.
But, threaded throughout this collection of stories is an ample amount of space for interpretation.
“I really wanted to make a songwriter album,” says Eady. The artist admits to being influenced by what’s going on around him. He describes his last record, I Travel On as “a big band record,” as it was derived from life on the road with his touring band. To the Passage of Time, however, mirrors its inception in the quiet moments at home, alone, or video conferencing with his songwriting collaborators.
Getting into the studio with producer, Gordy Quist of Austin’s Band of Heathens, Eady was intentional about how the songs should take shape. Eady and Quist discussed his fears and came up with a solution to ensure the session resulted in his imagined soundscape.
“The studio has a way of getting away from you,” he explains. “When everybody sits down and starts going, the songs can end up bigger than you intended. Once they go in that direction, it’s really hard to pull back—they take on a life of their own. What we decided to do, that I’d never done before, was we built it the exact opposite way.”
When the process began, the band had never heard any of the songs. They would sit in the control room at first, while Eady started playing the song acoustic from the studio. Eady adds, “As I player, you weren’t allowed to go play anything unless you heard and could explain why you wanted to play a part. So it was built from the ground up.”
The idea, he says, is “whatever you play has to serve the song and serve the lyrics.” This methodology is central to the sound of this recording project—intentionally crafted to serve the stories behind each of the songs.
As a songwriter, Eady is most proud of “French Summer Sun.” The five-minute-long, spoken-word song serves as a chilling centerpiece of the prized album. Lyrically, it traces a family lineage but is framed through the dynamic workings of a prolific writer. Throughout the song’s first half, the words narrate a familial history of a long line of soldiers—noting his grandfather and father’s military service. His grandfather fought in Italy’s Battle of Anzio in 1944 where more than 12,000 soldiers died. Luckily, his grandfather was not counted in the mass casualty. Instead, he came home to start a family in the United States. But this song considers the consequences if that wasn’t the case. The concept began on a trip overseas to visit the site of the renowned battle.
“That’s the genesis of that song, standing on that beach in Italy,” he explains. “The thought was if he had been killed, I wouldn’t be here, and that was baked into the song from the beginning. I struggled with it. It was one of those that was so personal, and such a big idea that it was intimidating.”
He called upon his friend Drew Kennedy that helped him shape the idea into something both poignant and tangible. The lyrics stood so well on their own that he was hesitant to distract from them with any sort of melody. As a spoken-word song, “French Summer Sun” sears the listener with Eady’s songwriting capabilities, enforcing his veteran status as a storyteller.
Listen to Jason Eady’s new album To the Passage of Time, here.
Photo Credit: Brandon Aguila