Jace Everett on True Blood, Alison Mosshart, Sex, and Religion


If you've never heard of Nashville-based singer-songwriter Jace Everett, there's little doubt you've heard a song he's best known for -- the theme from HBO's massively popular, supernatural-saturated television series True Blood.

Everett's music is a fusion of blues, rockabilly, and country, brimming with primal emotions and animalistic urges -- like the werewolves, fairies, and vampires on the show.

He pulls attributes from his favorite performers like Roy Orbison, Ray Charles, Jim Morrison and Willie Nelson. He honed his style singing and playing in church, which resulted in his attraction to emotionally and spiritually mature themes.

With adult responsibilities early in life (he became a father at 23), he was never attracted to party music. His mainstream 2005 album, Jace Everett,  featured the swampy-rockabilly hit "Bad Things" brought attention to the singer when True Blood picked up the song and used it in its erotic, menacing, yet playful opening credits.

The show is addicting; like watching a train wreck in slow motion; and "Bad Things" is the road that takes you there. After parting ways with Epic Records, Everett followed up 2007's Old New Borrowed Blues, a soulful country-rock album cut live with just two guitars and an upright bass, then 2010's Red Revelations, a chronicle of the hardships of monogamy. Currently, Everett is working on the album Mr. Good Times, due out this September, and previewed some of the songs at his July 10 show at the Musical Instrument Museum.

Up on the Sun: How often do you play in Phoenix? Do you come through here often?

Jace Everett: I don't actually. I think the last time I was in the area was a big country festival that I played in 2006 maybe. So, no, but I play in California quite a bit though.

I know it was quite awhile ago, but when "Bad Things" was chosen for True Blood's opening sequence. I'm sure it brought you a lot of more fans. How has it affected you in a negative way, if it has at all?

Um, I don't know if it has affected me in a negative way. I mean, I could certainly perceive it that way. It's definitely what I'm best known for, and in some circles the only thing I'm known for. It's a negative if you want it to be, but before that I was mostly unknown. It's all in how you look at it. I choose to look at it as nothing but a good thing.

Always great to have a positive outlook. Have you written any other music for the TV series?

I've had some other music used in other shows and some independent films, even in a video game that's going to come out pretty soon. But no, I haven't written anything specifically for a program.

Do you have any new songs or albums currently in the works?

Yes! I have a new album called Mr. Good Times that'll be coming out in September. At the MIM I'll probably bring out a couple of those songs, along with songs from True Blood.

When you come through here if you have time, you should really check out the museum as a whole; it's really great! I think there's over 10,000 instruments? It's worth seeing.

Yea we actually have a two-hour tour scheduled before we play! I didn't even know it existed so I'm really excited to check it out.

It's definitely one of my favorite museums in Phoenix. So I read you've had several jobs throughout your life and became a father at a young age. What do you think is the worst job you've ever had?

Washing trucks. Next question! (laughter). Yeah, I did that when I was, I guess I was 21 or 22, we actually had a mobile truck washing business. We worked hard. We'd show up in a UPS style truck and wash tractor trailers. It was the filthiest, nastiest, most awful thing I've ever done. I would never do it again!

You've said before, when describing your music, that "spiritual redemption and sexuality aren't really opposite, but the same." What do you mean by that?

Well, I don't know if they are the same thing, but I think they're aspects of the human condition that you don't find in other animals. Whether you're a religious person or not, we're more highly evolved socially and literally than other animals. So I think sexuality and spirituality are located in the same area of the brain.

I just thought that was a really interesting quote. You've also said that you aspire to achieve a group of things in one song: power, intelligence, energy, and that spiritual sexual quality. So how do you go about achieving that for all your songs? It can be felt in your music, but what is the creative process to get there?

It's all in the drums. (laughter) Sometimes I know how I do it, sometimes I don't know how I do, and sometimes I don't achieve it. But it really is about the lyrics, the melody and the rhythms, getting this kind of Zen trinity type of unity. You want them to feed off of one another. I think "Bad Things" a good example of that. I mean it is a silly song on the one hand, it's pretty light-hearted and funny, but it has a little meat on the bone and a couple of the lines and verses are a little deep in some things, and then there's that sensual swing rhythm. I don't know...that's a really hard question. A great question. But I may not be smart enough to answer it. I'll have to think about it!

Well, for example, what inspired "Bad Things"?

I was ripping off of Steve Earle, really. I flipped the chords around and made them all minor. His was kind of a tough guy song and I was pissed at a guy who owed me money. I was singing myself, "I'm gonna do bad things to you," is what I was singing. Then I realized it kinda sounded like I was a rapist. It changed to "I wanna do bad things with you," and it ended up sounding kind of sexy, more than I intended it to.

That's interesting how that happened.

Yeah that happens sometimes! You're thinking about one thing but it turns out your unconscious is singing about something complete different.

Do you have any current musicians or artists that are inspiring you in the industry today?

I really got into The Kills and The Dead Weather recently. I'm actually going to be doing some work with Alison Mosshart, the singer from The Dead Weather. So I've been researching their music and falling in love with it. And there's another band I discovered from a Ford commercial, called Band of Skulls, that put out a really great album about a year ago. Those are the acts I'm really into right now.

What performer would you most likely want to write or perform with?

Oh man, that's tough. There's so many. That changes depending on when you ask me. But I'd love to do something with Lauryn Hill; I always hope one day she'll stumble across an article and call me. It's fun to work with female artists just because of the dynamic male and female match up, there' something really special about that.

I wouldn't of expected Lauryn Hill.

Well, she's one of the greatest singers out there.

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.