Jason Isbell: I Don’t Want “Assholes” at My Shows

Grammy Award-winning songwriter and performer Jason Isbell has as big a presence on social media—specifically, on Twitter—as he does on stage or on his acclaimed LPs.

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And on Tuesday (March 8), Isbell made his feelings clear when it comes to his audience. He said he doesn’t want racists, sexual assaulters, fighters, and other jerks at his shows or buying his music.

Replying to a fan Tweet, Isbell wrote: “TBH it’s easier for me than it is for some artists, so there’s perspective to consider. But yes- I don’t want anybody who is ok with racism, anybody who doesn’t take the virus seriously, any boob-grabbers or fight starters or general assholes at my shows or listening to my albums.”

Isbell also added, “I don’t need their money I’m all good. I need to stay happy.”

The statement comes as one in a string for the socially-minded Isbell, who often puts women, people of color and other marginalized folks at the forefront of his mind when considering his work and his outreach.

Previously, Isbell criticized Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn, who had sent her own tweet as a dig against President Biden after the POTUS delivered his recent State of the Union address. Blackburn wrote on Twitter, “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris weaponized COVID. They refused to take a vaccine developed by President Trump.”

Isbell offered his own criticism of the senator to his many followers, writing, “This is your whole life, Marsha. You’re literally spending your one magical moment of existence doing this. You are the result of thousands of generations of survival and this is all we get from you. Constant horseshit.”

And a few months ago, Isbell tweeted his disapproval of the Grand Ole Opry after the musical institution welcomed in controversial country star Morgan Wallen.

Wallen, who remains embroiled in controversy over past racist comments, joined Ernest on stage at the Opry a few months back.

Isbell posted on Twitter to his nearly half a million followers, “Last night @opry you had a choice- either upset one guy and his ‘team,’ or break the hearts of a legion of aspiring Black country artists. You chose wrong and I’m real sad for a lot of my friends today. Not surprised though. Just sad.”


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  1. We (my wife and I with friends) ventured up to Isbell’s Las Vegas show this last weekend. His sensibilities as it concerns these issues is no small part of our enthusiasm and appreciation for his artistry. We also happen to consider music as more than passing entertainment, but also as a part of our common stories that can depict who we are, and who we hope to be. At times we’re dancing to this, at times we’re crying with this, hoping to be ‘Something more than Free’. Isbell’s social media confrontations are not for hype or ticket sales, imo, they are part of who he is as a husband and father and songwriter; and, due to this, we will look forward to future opportunities to join with fellow Isbell fans to sing and muse, to celebrate and lament and participate in the unique gift that music affords us as human beings. And it just might, on that rare night when stars fall on Alabama (so to speak) they offer us mirrors for considering change as much as receiving comfort in our struggles.

  2. If you choose your music, films, theater, broadway shows, visual art, or performance art based on the politics of the author, writer or performer, you will miss at least 50% of the greatest art. Frankly, most people do not care about the politics of their favorite artists, they just like what they do. They may even dislike the politics of an artist, but still appreciate their artistic ability. Unfortunately Isbell is one of those “woke” people who believes all of his beliefs, values and opinions are correct and that everyone else is wrong. He contributes to the divisiveness and fuels the hate on both sides. The more he rants about his politics, the more fans he will lose who get tired of being accused of being things they are not.

    • Well, he gave 5 specific groups of people he didn’t want. Three of them were very specific and shouldn’t be contentious at all. Racism is wrong. I dare you to argue it’s not. Boob-grabbing is sexual assault, and also obviously wrong outside of a consensual relationship. Starting fights is assault, and also obviously wrong. Now when it comes to the virus, the majority of people take it seriously, and science is on our side, so not taking it seriously is objectively wrong again. Now the definition of asshole varies, so he might want to narrow it down, but I tend to think that however you define it, it is a small group of overly loud people. I don’t think he’s cutting out that much of his market share. By the way, believing one’s beliefs, values, and opinions are correct is not just limited to the woke. That is a general trait of most people. It would be odd if a person held those things while thinking they were wrong.

  3. I have followed Jason Isbell since he was at Twist & Shout in Denver, CO all those years ago. I am English, lived in the US thirty years. I grew up with Margaret Thatcher and the politics of 1980’s England. Billy Bragg, The Clash, Chumbawamba have been around long before “Woke” became a phrase. So Bob Dylan? Joan Baez are they retroactively woke? Another label, from another commentator who wants to use emotional, over the top words like “Correct”, “Wrong” “Hate”. Those words fuel the fire, not Mr. Isbell. I for one am absolutely behind artists with integrity, ethics and a heart. I am not a passive listener of music, I am all in. Use of Generalizations “Most People”, “50% without any poll or reference” are not good data points to then be very specific about one individual and their personal beliefs. It reads as, you have a personal issue, in regards to Mr. Isbell, which is your right and it may also read as you are fueling the very argument that you deride Mr. Isbell for doing. Not helpful in these troubling times of division, miscommunication and polarization.

  4. I hate it when artist try and push their political opinions on their fans. It’s just plain wrong and classless. Jason Isbell has way too much talent to waste his time with such negativity. You got your opinions and other people have theirs. Man just keep writing and singing the songs that’s all that matters. Love your honesty in your music but could give 2 cents about your strong opinions. Use your platform for where it gotcha not what’s going to tear it down. That is what will happen if you keep playing the politcal game. If you think the administration that we have at the present are doing great things you are so blind!
    Terry White

  5. I believe I have the right to listen to your albums no matter what my political views or my behavior. Your albums are commercial products made available to the public by a record company and a publishing company. Those companies employ many people who depend on album sales for their livlihoods.
    I’m glad you are “socially conscious” and want to do the right thing. However, it doesn’t help if you confront the haters with more hate.

  6. For the record, an “asshole” is easily recognizable by me; as a father, I hoped my children would grow up to be almost anything other than an “asshole”. But to the subject at hand, I encountered a couple of assholes at the Ryman. I am one of the Isbell fans (read: fanatics) who try to catch Isbell as he makes his yearly appearance there, playing usually six shows. I am speaking of that time I attended one of these shows two years, I think it was, before the pandemic. I sat on the floor middle of the auditorium about half way back. Behind me sat two young women: I would call them “Chatty Cathy” save the fact that they were yelling at the tops of their lungs carrying on a conversation about everything under the sun and moon, two women who cared not for Isball’s music and cared less for the people around them, like my friends and I, who were there to enjoy Isbell’s artistry. If you have been to an Isbell show, you know his music moves between straight ahead rock ballads and tender confessional songs, though his music really defies categories. Anyway, after being a “party” to their conversation, I finally turned and asked them kindly to shut the you know what up. “Please, if you want to talk, go outside. Obviously you came here to converse and not to enjoy Isbell’s music.” So, yess, like Jason, I wish the assholes would stay home.

  7. This coming from a guy that used to be the biggest asshole, was kicked out of an up and coming band for being an asshole, almost lost his girl for being an asshole, then he gets sober and is now holier-than-thou? I love Jason’s music, but his attitude is nudging him pretty close to the asshole category.

    • Craig, I couldn’t agree more. Jason has asshole written all over his face and body language.

  8. I understand the passion can easily become intolerance. However recently artists seem to be getting on this “virtue signalling” phase.

    Who in their right mind would categorize themselves as being racists? I have never met anyone that has and I am pretty damn old. What is an “asshole” anyway? To me it might be someone completely different than you.

    Isbell seems to think that anyone he “thinks” is an asshole must fit under the categories he expressed. More so again, an asshole whould not categorize themselves as one!

    I find Isbell is being petty and self important here and I know that goes against most people responding to this article. I always thought that music was above all that? That music can overcome hate and actually lift people above petty and shallow ideologies. But here is Isbell actually being an asshole in that he judges or actually prejudges (as in prejudice) and also goes on to be jury and executioner. It’s divise and shallow disguising itself as virtue and holier than thou. Mr. Isbell rather than announce to the world that you do not want “bad” people there (again who in their right minds deems themselves to be bad?) why don’t you welcome them and let them know you love them anyhow and that listening to your music tells your story much better and gracefully than any virtue signalling. All of us are human! Would Isbell not play his music to a prison full of people most of which have killed another human being? Hell how many artists have done that? It does not mean that B.B. King or Johny Cash love murderers! It is because they realize they are humans as well and maybe, just maybe one of those might be stopped from killing anyone else if they listened to the “MUSIC”.

    Some here say just listen to his music and not his politics. But it’s the way in which it is done that I have an issue with. It is leaving a bad taste in my ears when listening to his music now. I am no racist. I am no assaulter etc. but I will not go to any Isbell concerts nor listen to his music anymore.

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