Jimbo Mathus: Dark Night

Jimbo Mathus was one of our top programs a couple years ago. (You can download that great podcast here). Since then, Mathus has released another full-length album with our fellow Country Fried Rock alum, Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, called Dark Night of The Soul. In additional “it’s a small world” coincidences, a songwriter fan of this show, Robert Earl Reed “RER”, also happened to be one of Mathus’ close friends and collaborators. Reed was incredibly supportive of our projects for musicians’ mental health care (which you can donate to here). I “met” Reed through an online festival called Couch By Couchwest, which happens to be coming up in March. (If you are a musician, you should submit a video PDQ here.) When Reed passed away suddenly this past year, the first person I thought of was Mathus and their close friendship, music videos together, and co-writing. When I asked Mathus to update us, I offered to omit the questions about Reed, but Mathus’ heartfelt answers make this record even better.

Buy Dark Night of The Soul here on Amazon.

Sloane Spencer: Since we first talked between Blue Light and White Buffalo, you and Roscoe have worked together quite a bit in different roles. How has that relationship changed as you work with new material?

Jimbo Mathus: I have really been influenced by Roscoe’s guitar philosophy over the past few years. It’s very simple yet strangely poetic and tough at the same time. On “Dark Night” he was on the floor with us as a member of the band. So, combined with Matt Pierce and myself on guitars, many songs have three guitars all blending harmoniously with the organ, bass, drums and piano. It creates a heavy, full sound.

SS: I don’t think you’ve ever made the same album twice. What’s different about Dark Night of the Soul?

JM: Dark Night has some pretty challenging lyrical themes on it. I was influenced by the news stories of 2013, which seemed to be one mass shooting or national disaster after another. Some of the themes are drug addiction, rampant capitalism, and massive geological and seismic upheaval on planet Earth. Other themes include learning from past mistakes and the simple, profound beauty of true love.

SS: You were close friends with a musician whom I was in the process of setting up an interview when he suddenly passed away this year — Robert Earl Reed. I know y’all made some videos together, and he was a prolific, self-critical, perfectionist songwriter (based on my email conversations with him over a few years). Would you like to share anything about RER?

JM: RER and I blazed a bright arc in our brief time together. I produced his first collection of songs and mentored him on his singing and guitar playing. He, in turn, inspired me with his songs, songwriting and aesthetic. Two songs on “Dark Night” were co-written by him–“Tallahatchie” and “White Angel.” We started Repent Films together and created five music videos. He was just a person that I will never be able to replace; a true like-minded artist and Renaissance man. We just instinctively understood one another. I miss him all the time.