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The Shotgun Seat Presents: Interview with Jon Randall

Jon Randall has a wide range as a musician. The Grammy, CMA, and ACM winner has toured with acts like Emmylou Harris as a part of her band, produced and played on studio records for the likes of Dierks Bentley and Miranda Lambert, had songs he’s written recorded and made hits, and recorded music of his own. On his self-titled solo album Jon Randall, it wasn’t so much a conscious effort to step away from his collaborative efforts and create a record of his own, but a discovery that many of his solo writes through the years had something in common.

“When we started looking down all the songs that I had recorded, there was a little bit of a Texas theme, a little bit of a wandering spirit theme, a lot of storytelling songs, and I just felt like there was a thread between this body of work,” he says. “Originally I wanted to do just an acoustic singer-songwriter record, just real basic, but the song “Driving to Mexico” had been the demo that turned out like a record – it was one of those moments in the studio where everybody was looking at each other going, ‘Woah, what just happened?’”

“That song stood out,” he continues, “when I played songs with people like Jack [Ingram], Miranda [Lambert], my team here, everybody was like, man, that song has to be on there somehow.” But it stuck out a bit, he shares, as the only non-acoustic track. He went back into the studio with his world-class group of studio musicians, and recorded “Keep on Moving,” “Tequila Kisses,” and “The Road.”

Something notable about Randall’s record is the amount of solo writing that appears on it. Though many writers start their careers writing songs alone, Nashville is a big believer in the co-write – in the 90s, between two writers, and now, typically three or even more. It can yield really incredible art, with each collaborator bringing their strengths and filling in for each others’ weaknesses, but it can have limitations as well. “Co-writing can become a crutch sometimes,” Randall says. “I have to try to not co-write with myself if that makes sense. I have to try to find the language that I’ve always used when I write songs because that’s your point of view and that’s your story the way that you tell it. It took me a while to find that guy again.”

For Randall, that’s a penchant for darker songs – “I grew up a bluegrass kid, so I was singing all the death and murder songs when I was six years old,” he laughs. “I was always drawn to the darker, plus then growing up on old school country, you know.” His musical background, however, is diverse – hippie jazz, New Grass Revival, his sister’s classic rock records, the French music Emmylou Harris would sometimes play hanging out evenings after shows on the road.