Jason Isbell is gearing up for the release of his upcoming album, Reunions. Ahead of the record’s release, Isbell virtually sat down with Trevor Noah on The Daily Show to perform a track from the album, discuss the record’s themes, and detail how the coronavirus has affected him.
Performing from a barn in his backyard, Isbell gave a soulful performance of his single “Only Children.” While Isbell reared his signature acoustic guitar, the singer was also accompanied by his wife and frequent collaborator, Amanda Shires, on the violin.
Chatting with Noah after his performance, Isbell further detailed the theme behind Reunions, saying he wrote it as a reflection on the years he was struggling with sobriety:
“I went through this period after I got sober, a little over eight years ago, where the person I used to be, I looked back on him with a lot of judgment and disdain. It took me a good six-and-a-half or seven years before I felt, ‘I could be friends with that guy again.’ Where I felt that was safe. Because I didn’t want to forgive myself too quickly for fear of turning back into the person I used to be. Finally, in the last couple of years, I felt comfortable looking back at the music I made then and the relationships I made then and the person I was then, and revisiting that. Going and sitting down and having a conversation with that person and not just hating his guts. Because it was safer to do that. So, when I started thinking of those things and those people, a lot of memories came back and sometimes in the form of ghosts. They came back to me in a way that I’m more equipped now to write about than I was ten years ago when I was falling down drunk and only had a couple of hours a day where I could be productive. Now, I can use the writing skills and the focus that I have to make music that that guy wanted to make ten years ago but wasn’t capable of.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Noah asked Isbell about his experience living in Tennessee and seeing restaurants begin to reopen amid the pandemic. Isbell responded by detailing his thought-out theory for why people around him were so willing to go back to their pre-pandemic lives. “I think a lot of people, in America and everywhere, a lot of people I grew up with and a lot of people that I still know, they see the same things pretty much every day,” he said. “They go to the same jobs, they see the same people.”
But, because Isbell himself chose to instead hit the road and gain new experiences, he’s used to seeing things he’s never seen before: “I think a lot of folks make the mistake of thinking they’ve seen this before because they don’t have a lot of experience with something they have never seen before. They’re not in the practice of experiencing new things. And that scares me.”
Watch Isbell perform “Only Children” and open up about Reunions on The Daily Show above.
Reunions is out 5/15 via Southeastern Records. Pre-order it here.