In his quest to remain unique and unpredictable, Shooter Jennings, son of country legends Waylon Jennings and Jessi Coulter, does the unpredictable by going full country in his latest, most personal album.
Fibrous dark hair down, wolf and lion rings reflecting daylight, and constantly sunglass-ed, Shooter Jennings appears the least likely patron to order a mimosa in this bright West Hollywood brunchery where we meet.
Sunset Boulevard blushes in morning sun, an unusual gleam for a setting known for neon marquees and musicians’ smokes fading into famous into forgotten. How oxymoronic. Even the music selection playing over our conversation begins with the Jackson 5 (“I Want You Back”)—not exactly mainstream country.
Then again, neither is Shooter.
“The country music scene definitely stands out,” the singer-songwriter explains. “You sense when a show happens out here people are excited to go to them because they don’t happen every day. I love California, and I think it’s more important to make a mark here than it would be to go back to Nashville.”
After a day of recuperating from a packed show at the Troubadour just around the corner, there’s no denying he’s earned some vitamin C.
“Yesterday,” he turns to his manager Adam, “what did we do? Nothing. That was nice. After you get done with a show like one at the Troubadour, it takes a whole day to recover from it. A lot of energy goes into the local shows.”
Does he have a pre-show ritual?
During the show?
“Get a couple sips off that drink that I’m waiting for after.”
His go-to is Jack Daniels and Coke. “Or mimosas,” he adds.
He radiates rough-n-tough, but official enough to turn a few heads from nearby tables. Though time is too tight to order anything off the menu, he tells me he’s a foodie. Once we’ve swapped stories of Savannah and L.A. must-do’s, our drinks arrive.
“Look at that,” he exclaims, smiling at the glass of orange juice accompanied by a petite bottle of champagne. “Cheers guys!”
Shades of Shooter
Thirteen years since his first solo musical outing with “Put the ‘O’ Back in Country,” Jennings has every reason to raise a glass. He signed with his longtime friend Dave Cobb’s imprint label, Low Country Sound/Elektra, released his eighth studio album on August 10, and is currently touring cross-country through next year. An avid supporter of fellow artists, he’s also—much to his delight—spending more time contributing to the production side of recording.
“There’s a bunch of great artists here,” Jennings says. “There’s Jamie Wyatt ,who’s blowing up out here. Adam just turned me onto this guy named Gold Star. Then there’s Sam Outlaw and these other cats. There’s definitely a scene of people out here, and I like to work with them in the studio.”
In fact, Jennings and Cobb’s collaboration on folk-rock singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile (who lent her vocals to Jenning’s last album, “Countach (For Giorgio)”) new record, “By the Way, I Forgive You,” inspired Jennings new self-titled album, “Shooter.”
“That put us together for a few weeks. Throughout the next couple of months, I was writing songs,” he says. “I would send them to Dave and he’d be like, ‘Ok, we still need some more upbeat stuff.’ Then I wrote ‘Bound ta Git Down’ and some other songs to round out the sound we were looking for.”
Shooter is unapologetically “Hank Williams Jr./eighties country,” which does not stray far from “Countach (For Giorgio)”’s “sound of the eighties.” Williams Jr.’s influence on the record’s sound can be heard most prominently in “Shades & Hues.” The album’s cover art even calls back to an “iconic” Williams Jr. shirt Jennings owns with “Bocephus” written beneath an image of the legendary artist.
“I was like, ‘Just do a picture like that and put Shooter under it,’ and Dave asks, ‘Why can’t we just call the album Shooter?’ I said, ‘Alright let’s do that.’”
Notorious for doing what he wants with his records, Jennings wants every new release to travel an uncharted direction.
“I don’t like playing music for any other reason than just being excited about it, being creative with it,” he says after he sips his mimosa. “In this case, I thought the most unexpected move was to do a solid eighties country record. Also, it was time. I’ve dabbled in a lot of different things and we never really went all the way country with a record.”
Shooter's new album can be purchased at shooterjennings.com.