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article imageJamestown Revival: 'Leaving behind the old and starting anew' Special

By Earl Dittman     Dec 4, 2014 in Music
Zach Chance and Jonathan Clay — a self-professed “back porch folk duo” — are witnessing their childhood dreams come to fruition with the success of “California (Cast Iron Soul)” and the re-release of the classic Jamestown Revival album 'Utah.'
Growing up in the small Texas town of Magnolia, Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance — the boyhood buddies who make up the harmony-laden, Western-tinged Americana, folk/rock duo Jamestown Revival — not only shared a love for the outdoors but also a deep appreciation of folk, pop, rock and country music. They would spend their blazing adolescent days exploring every inch of a thousand-acre, family-owned plot of Lone Star terra firma. However, as darkness fell across the prairie and stars filled the Texas night sky, the pair would while away their evenings listening to records by Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Everly Brothers, The Rolling Stones, Willie Nelson, John Prine and Neil Young on the porch of a dilapidated ranch house that sat on the vast acreage — always wishing they could write songs as timeless as their musical heroes.
"From the time we were little kids, we would go up to this huge piece of property that has been in Jonathan's family since the late-60s or early-'70s, and go out there to fish, hunt, fix cars or ride ATVs, because we've always dug the outdoors," Jamestown Revival singer/keyboardist Zach Chance fondly remembers. "But, we also loved music. It was such a big part of our lives, even from the very beginning. So, by the time we were teenagers, we had decided we needed to start taking some instruments with us on our trips to the ranch. After awhile, we began to write some songs and they just felt different from anything we had done together before. I think that music became the one thing that was most exciting to us, because we figured out that we could create together. To pull something out of thin air and have a song was a really cool discovery."
The music on Jamestown Revival's debut album, Utah, is proof positive that the indescribable and inimitable creative bond Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance discovered they had between them, over a decade ago, is much more than "cool" — it's downright magical. Together, the pair have taken their rich, sweet, deep harmonies and merged the sounds of the South with classic Americana and Western rock to create flawless acoustic-driven, emotionally hard-hitting songs like “California (Cast Iron Soul)," the lead single from Utah.
In order to capture the spirit of their music and add resonance to their heavily autobiographical aural creations, Clay and Chance retreated to a log cabin high within the Wasatch Mountains of Utah to record 11 songs for their debut record. Armed with a simple one-inch recorder, their band and an engineer, Jamestown Revival created a modern-day rock classic in their temporary wooden studio. "We were just all playing these songs together in a room," guitarist/vocalist Jonathan Clay explains about the making of Utah. "We did the whole thing onto tape. We didn't have any headphones and there was no click track. We just played and sang our hearts out onto that tiny one-inch Tascam recorder. It was great. We loved the music that we came up with. And, surprisingly, a lot of other people liked it, too."
Independently released in February 2014 on Wild Bunch, Utah became an instant hit with music critics and Americana/rock aficionados. “We put the album out ourselves and it did incredibly well,” Clay continues. “We caught the attention of people, with one of those being Republic Records. They wanted to get involved with us to help get this music heard by more people. They picked up the record to help us kick things up a notch. Having a major label like Republic behind Utah is like a dream come true.”
Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance of Jamestown Revival
Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance of Jamestown Revival
Republic
Teaming up with Republic gave the duo the chance to add to the album without sacrificing what was special about their soulful debut record. The recently re-released version of Utah boasts new arrangements and mixes of the single “California (Cast Iron Soul),” “Home” and “Golden Age” produced by former Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen producer Brendan O’Brien.
"We all got together to talk about how to make this the best record it could be and sort of a unanimous feeling among all of us was, 'While what we did was really cool, there are a few things that if we could have gone back and done things over again, we would have done it a little bit differently,’” Clay says of the decision to re-record parts of Utah. “So, instead of a one-inch tape machine, we would have use a two-inch recorder. And, instead of a reproduction vintage microphone, we would have used a real 1960s microphone —all the stuff we didn't have the money for the first time around. That's where Republic helped out. We got back in the studio and re-recorded 'California,' but the original is also on the record, because we didn't really want to take that away. We really thought it completed the thought. Basically, we just added to the original recording."
While the music on Utah is uniquely Jamestown Revival, Jonathan confesses that he and Zach aren’t afraid to wear their influences on their musical sleeves. "I think listening to all the greats and all of our heroes really got ingrained into the songwriters in us,” Clay admits. “I think there are certain things that make up our DNA and identity as artists. Those influences are going to be inherent in whatever we do. I guess our style of writing is something we don't think about. You are definitely going to hear the influences in there."
A FEW MINUTES WITH ZACH CHANCE & JONATHAN CLAY OF JAMESTOWN REVIVAL:
Zach and Jonathan of Jamestown Revival
Zach and Jonathan of Jamestown Revival
Republic/JR
Did you both always know you wanted to be musicians?
Jonathan: "Without a doubt. To me, music became my identity, from the time I was 17. I started playing guitar when I was 12 years old, but I got frustrated a lot with it. I was an instant gratification kind of kid and it took much practice and work. When I got older, it all kinda clicked and it really became my identity. I was about 17 or 18 when that happened. From then on, it just took over my life. In a good way and sometimes in a bad way."
Zach: "I can honestly say that at one point or another there was a Plan B for both of us, at different times in our lives. But the majority of our adolescence we believed that we could make a living playing music. And, thank goodness, it happened.”
When did the two of you decide to make the “I’m gonna be musician, everything else be damned” leap of faith?
Zach: "When we went off to school, I think it was our second year in college, Jon figured out pretty quickly that he wanted to pursue music, so he dropped out and started pursuing music. And, I was still doing the straight and narrow. I didn't really know what to do. But it seemed logical to get a business degree and finish school. I guess Jon has always been kind of the instigator. He has always been the first one to take the leap."
Jonathan: "I’ve always come to Zach with some grandiose idea or another. Luckily, Zach is just half-crazy enough to believe me.” (laughs)
Zach: "I don't really plan anything out, I just go with the moment. Jon really pretty good about going and grabbing one. So, we make a good combination, I guess."
How does the songwriting process work between the two of you?
Zach: "Doing what we do, we already spend an unhealthy amount of time together. (laughs) Our lives are very intertwined because we share a lot of the same friends, so when we are not playing music, we are in the same social circles. Also, the fact that we have known each for so long makes it very easy to get into a room and have a shared experience to write about. We are able to pool from some of the same things that we are experiencing and feeling. When Jon comes in with an idea, I always pretty much understand where he is coming from."
Would it be fair to say that most of the songs on Utah are autobiographical?
Zach: “Most definitely. There’s a big reason why. Early on, we started to realize that it made it easer to sing the songs, perform them and believe in them if we were honest instead of trying to write songs that we thought we were supposed to write or that people wanted to hear."
Untitled
Republic/JR Facebook
I follow you guys on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and you always have the most fun and often irreverent postings. Are you big social media fans?
Zack: "I'll be honest, it's not our favorite thing. I have real mixed feelings about social media. I think that it is a really awesome way to keep in touch with people but I also think that it's a very unhealthy thing to just be on it all of the time. You gotta live your life and step away from it and go experience things instead of looking like you are doing something fun. We also understand that it is part of the world we live in and something we have to be involved with. So, if we are going to have to do it, then we are going to do it in a way that's fun for us and fun for other people. So, we try to keep it really sincere and light-hearted most of the time. And, get serious when the time is right."
Jonathan: "We don't like to just post a post and have it be like a friggin' infomercial. It has sincerity to it so that people know where it is coming from. I hope it translates."
Okay, before we go any further I have to ask the question you’ve probably been asked a million times: Why did you decide to call yourselves Jamestown Revival?
Zack: "The idea behind Jamestown Revival is just new beginnings. Jamestown being a throwback to one of the first U.S. settlements — Jamestown, Virginia. Also, we had to pay homage to Creedence Clearwater a little bit, because we wore their records out by playing them so many times. (laughs) Basically, our name is about new beginnings, leaving behind the old and starting anew."
What immediate plans do you have for Jamestown Revival?
Jonathan: "We are going to spend the remainder of 2014 and the first half of 2015 touring to support this album. Where we end up at end of 2015 kind of determines how much traction we get with this, ultimately. If we start to slow down a little bit, we will have written some new songs and we'll get back into the studio. Either way, we'll be writing songs. When we get to record those depends on the way the next six months go."
This has been an incredible year for Jamestown Revival. Are you surprised the album and your music, in general, has been so widely received by critics and the music-buying public?
Jonathan: "I absolutely am surprised, I feel like we have worked so hard for so long on this album that by the time we put it out, I couldn't even tell if it was good or not. I really couldn't tell if what we had done was a complete flop or that people were going to get it. There was a lot of apprehension in both my and Zach's heads. I didn't expect quite as many people to like it that has. We still have a long way to go, but we have made a lot of ground. And, it's a really awesome thing."
Zach: "We've gotten so many lucky bounces. We've been really lucky. There are times where we are like, 'Don't touch anything, because we don't want to break whatever is happening.' We've had several sold-out shows on our first headlining tour and we're like, 'Okay, what's the trick? How did that happen? Was someone bigger on the bill that we didn't know about?' It's pretty humbling."
Jamestown Revival live at the Troubadour
Jamestown Revival live at the Troubadour
Republic/JR Facebook
Ultimately, what do you want fans to take away from the songs on Utah and the music of Jamestown Revival?
Zach: "I hope people take honesty away from it. We are not trying to be anybody that we're not. We wanted the music to be an extension of the things that we believe in and the things that we are going through and the people we are. We want to share that experience with everybody, especially with our lives shows. When everybody is on the same page, it makes for a really good night. If we can keep that genuineness about the music, then I think we will be alright."
Jamestown Revival on tour:
December 5 - Houston, Texas - Fitzgerald's
December 6 - Austin, Texas - Emo's Austin
December 10 - Escondido, California - California Center for the Arts*
December 12 - Napa, California - The Uptown Theatre*
December 13 - Stockton, California - Bob Hope Theatre*
(* with Merle Haggard)
Jamestown Revival on: Facebook - Twitter - Instagram
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