Vincent Neil Emerson was watching Edward Norton painting each a rhapsodizing stoner and his straitlaced brother in 2009’s Leaves of Grass when the actor started singing a Townes Van Zandt tune onscreen. Emerson, a local of East Texas, hadn’t but found the tragic songwriter on the time and he dutifully studied the movie’s closing credit to see who was liable for writing “Rex’s Blues.”
“I discovered the title Townes Van Zandt, went to YouTube and simply typed it in, and the primary video was of him taking part in ‘Ready Round to Die,’” Emerson, 29, says. Van Zandt’s stark lyricism and haunted singing model left him floored, and he started to devour the catalog, from “To Dwell Is to Fly” to “Rex’s Blues,” which he nonetheless considers his favourite tune. “Townes,” Emerson says, “I believe he’s the best songwriter to ever stay.”
The affect and spirit of Van Zandt permeates Emerson’s new album, a self-titled assortment of 10 songs produced by one other Texas hero, Rodney Crowell. He sings in regards to the suicide of his father in “Learnin’ to Drown,” dangerous life selections and a scarcity of prospects in “Excessive on Getting By,” and a 1963 pressured sale of Native American acres by the federal government in “The Ballad of the Choctaw-Apache.” (His maternal grandmother is from the Choctaw-Apache tribe of Ebarb, Louisiana.) “Nicely you are taking away their residence, you then declare what you don’t personal/Nicely I suppose it’s nonetheless the American method,” he sings.
The darker, Townes-like writing of Vincent Neil Emerson is in stark distinction to the songs Emerson was singing on his 2019 debut, Fried Rooster and Evil Girls. These had been lighter, up-tempo and sometimes tongue-in-cheek, with turns of phrase harking back to Roger Miller or Jonny Fritz. Emerson is a diehard Fritz fan and even name-checks the Candy Creep singer within the Fried Rooster and Evil Girls monitor “25 & Wastin’ Time.”
“I’ve at all times wished to jot down extra severe songs. The primary document that I did, I wrote all these songs after I was in my early 20s, taking part in a number of honky-tonks and barbecue joints and a number of lengthy gigs in entrance of dance corridor crowds. For a very long time, I catered to the viewers that I used to be in entrance of,” Emerson says, including that he wasn’t “outfitted mentally” again then to handle such heavy matters.
He additionally didn’t have the experience of Crowell guiding him within the studio. The pair recorded Vincent Neil Emerson at Sound Emporium in Nashville. “Rodney can go both method so far as manufacturing. He’s produced a number of albums and a number of totally different types of stuff,” Emerson says. “However for this one, he knew that the songs had been within the vein of Man Clark and Townes and so they didn’t actually need a lot so far as manufacturing go. They wanted to simply sound good.”
For all of the tributes to Townes Van Zandt in his work — he sings the title of “Ready Round to Die” in “The Ballad of the Choctaw-Apache” and a line from “I’ll Be Right here within the Morning” in final yr’s collab with good friend Colter Wall, “Road Runner” — Emerson says he was most impressed by one other Townes when writing the extra weak materials of his new album.
“I’m an enormous fan of a man named Justin Townes Earle,” he says, citing the Americana songwriter, who died in 2020. “He sort of laid the whole lot on the market and he didn’t maintain again so far as private stuff goes.”
It’s that soul-baring that Emerson hopes nation followers will latch onto in his new songs. He’s developed and matured since writing about greasy wings and malevolent girls, and sees Vincent Neil Emerson as his personal remedy session.
“As you grow old, you sort of learn to take care of your emotions and feelings somewhat bit higher,” he says. “If no one likes this document for the way in which it sounds, at the least somebody can respect its honesty.”