JASON BOLAND & THE STRAGGLERS:
SINGER-SONGWRITER BOLAND TALKS MUSIC, THE ROAD AND MORE
Q: What about those bumper stickers and T-shirts that say “Keep Austin Weird”?
JASON BOLAND: Yeah, I’m all for keeping Austin weird [laughs]. That’s what I enjoy about it. Some of the weirdness is being run out now. It’s still a really fun town. That’s why I can call it home. I’ve been there about two years now. It gets hot, but people aren’t afraid of it at all—I think it’s a source of pride.
Q: Here’s a quote from a 9513.com review of your latest album, the live High In The Rockies: “The perfect antidote for people who have become frustrated by the lack of balance in mainstream country music and a reminder that country does not need pop or rock elements to still kick ass.” What do you think about that?
JB: I agree, and I’m flattered by it. We definitely appreciate the folks who enjoy the fact that we are a little more traditionalist and have that feel.
Q: The album opens with the song “Hank” which has the lines, “That carbon copy music doesn’t mean a damn to me/Hank Williams wouldn’t make it now in Nashville, Tennessee.” Can you reflect on this?
JB: Yeah, that was a song written by a good musician and friend of ours, Aaron Wynne. I’ve always thought that song was so hard-hitting and honest. If Hank Williams, Sr. went around doing what he did today–or someone else along those same lines—they would get the door slammed in their face. It happens every day.
Q: One of the highlights of High in the Rockies is your interpretation of Tom Russell’s “Gallo Del Cielo.” What inspired you to cover this song in particular?
JB: It doesn’t get any better than this as far as story songs go. It’s a top-notch story song that takes you all the way inside. I always think it’d make a great movie, but then I think, “Nah, nobody would get how sad the ending is.”
Q: If you were to record a duet with an artist in country and someone outside of country, who might that be?
JB: For a male/female duet, it would probably be with Dolly Parton, for my mom. If I could do anything outside of country, it would be with the band Ween. I don’t think I could hang with Mastodon or the Mars Volta, but I dig their music.
Q: How are you traveling? Do you have your own tour bus?
JB: Yes, we travel by tour bus but, I don’t own it!
Q: How do you guys keep sane during travel?
JB: We are such lucky people–we do what we love to do. In our spare time, you’ll find us picking on the guitar and playing on the fiddle, or watching movies and playing video games. I also try to get out and about in the cities we visit. Last time I was in Chicago, I went to the Art Institute, and then I got to go and see a legitimate creation by Banksy, the street artist. That was fun, and then I went to a Cubs game.
Q: Any interesting side trips on the road?
JB: I went to Alaska with Stoney LaRue on his “North to Alaska” music and fishing trip. I caught a king salmon or two! They ship it home with you, freeze-dried and packed, it was awesome. Sitka, Alaska. Oh it was gorgeous, hanging out in God’s vestibule, it was pretty.
Q: What was the last meal you cooked for yourself? Do you cook on the road at all?
JB: The last meal I cooked for myself was some of the salmon I caught in Alaska. I made ceviche with lime, cilantro, jalapeño and a little lemon. We try to do what we can. We bring a grill on the bus and we’ll try to get out and do some things. A couple of the guys really enjoy cooking. We try, but it’s tough. I’m sure some people make the food and that thing more of a priority, but we’re eight guys on a bus. You eat on the road.
Q: As you’ve been traveling, you’ve been drawing upon material from all parts of your career. Are you guys doing any unreleased material or songs that might be under consideration for the upcoming album?
JB: Sometimes we have put a couple of songs into the set before they’re released, but we mostly play songs that people know. We’ve been at it long enough now and have enough albums to play a full set and still find somebody who didn’t hear some song that they really wanted to hear. We are going back to the studio this fall and I’ve already got plenty of songs that I’m really happy with.
Q: Will the upcoming album also be released on your label Proud Souls Entertainment?
JB: I would imagine that; we do some little partnering kind of ventures here and there, but we never really talk to labels. For us, it has really made more sense to produce our record with people we enjoy working with and then we find ways to get them into the stores.
Q: Describe your best night on tour, ever.
JB: It’s hard to isolate one show, but it always means a lot to us when we perform at Cain’s Ballroom [in Tulsa] and it’s packed. You see so many old friends and buddies. The Red Dirt Rangers show up and Randy Crouch is there–it’s Cain’s, you know? Then there’s the enjoyment of finding those special venues that are out of the way like Ziggy’s in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Q: What has been your Spinal Tap moment on tour?
JB: Well, I just had it the other day. We were in New Hope, Pennsylvania and the tour manager came out and he said “Boston just cancelled.” And I wanted to say, “Oh that’s not a big deal, it’s not a big college town.” I mean, when Boston cancelled on us, that moment of Spinal Tap was in the air–there are what, 20 colleges there?
Q: If you were to have a dinner party with three to four people, dead or living, who would it be?
JB: I would choose Merle Haggard, Andrew Jackson and Moses. I could probably get a decent shot of history. Jesus, you can’t pick. That’s almost too easy.
Q: You covered Gram Parsons’ “A Song For You.” What do feel that Gram delivered that earned him that great position in history in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s?
JB: He brought straight-up honky tonk music to the parties in the hills out there in California and said, “Listen to this. This is great stuff.” He kept country hip. There were a lot of times when pop culture was moving on from it and Merle Haggard–based in California too–wasn’t getting played on the radio anymore.
Q: Looking ahead at the next album, is there anything that you think might be different about it artistically?
JB: I don’t think anything different other then more natural evolution. I like to think I know how to keep people always pleasantly surprised, including myself. You want to keep it fresh—and keep it real for the fans.
Q: Will the new album come out next year?
JB: Yeah, late winter/early spring if I was guessing. I’m also thinking, since we’re a country band, we technically get to make one rock album–all rock bands have their country albums, you know! So, I’m looking forward to that…I think we get to release one rock album where everybody can go, “Wow that is just all rock and roll!” It would be funny.
Q: On that eventual record, what do you think would be the first track?
JB: On a rock and roll record? I probably haven’t written it yet. I would be weary of just going and attacking a bunch of rock classics. Pat Boone did that one time.