One of the finest albums you will hear this year is the latest release from Jeb Loy Nichols, which dropped on June 10th. Titled simply Jeb Loy (ORDER), the album finds this veteran singer-songwriter giving us one of his most soulful and lyrically poignant collections of tunes to date. Those familiar with Jeb Loy Nichols may know that he has had a long career filled with diverse music and an adventurous artistic spirit that has always found him refusing to be pigeonholed into one style of music.
Jeb Loy may be his most realized work to date, encapsulating more than twenty years in the music game with a sound that incorporates classic soul and R&B, folk and even country. As a singer, Jeb veers effortlessly from smokey blue-eyed soul reminiscent of peers like James Hunter to smooth and laid back vocals in the vein of New Orleans greats like Allen Toussaint. His acoustic guitar and gorgeous rasp are complemented by Cold Diamond & Mink’s tight rhythm section, showcasing a musically symbiotic collaboration that is sure to make lovers of Daptone Records smile with delight. Lyrically, Jeb touches on his own life experiences, relationships, and life on the road alongside quietly powerful social commentary. The result is an impressively fresh album that has the power to calm you and move you at the same time.
We recently spoke with Jeb Loy Nichols from his country-side home in Wales about the inspiration behind the new album, how it came together, life as an American ex-pat, his favorite soul music, and more. We are also excited to share an exclusive premiere of the video for “Can’t Cheat the Dance,” one of the standout tracks on the new album.
Is there a theme to the new album that links all of the songs together?
How do you live a simple life in a complicated world? How do you live with less instead of more? I live in the hills of Wales on a remote farm and every day I try and live outside the rush and crash of modern life. I did, years ago, live in both New York and London, and I loved living there, but I find now that I need the quiet and solitude that this life brings. When people ask me why I moved here, why I turned my back on The City, I tell them this: I want to live with the last true oppositionists, the last true revolutionaries, the shrubs, the squirrels, the trees, the insects, the grasses, those things that don’t consume, that don’t war, that don’t promise, that don’t build and steal, that don’t accumulate and grow greedy. I wanted to write an LP of simple, clear songs, songs in the southern soul tradition, songs that talk about how we live now.
You worked with Cold Diamond & Mink on this. Can you talk about what they brought to the table creatively?
The Timmion Crew were great. The best. This was the easiest record to make. They brought a groove, a feeling, a landscape. We sent a lot of music back and forth and they always listened in a careful way. I’ve always been a big fan of their music and it was great to collaborate with them. I know that what we’re doing is Soul Music, that it’s rooted in a certain tradition, but they make it feel new, they bring a fresh feel to it.
Can you share the story of how you connected with them?
I first saw the Timmion Crew at a Nicole Willis show in London. I loved the label and had bought most of the records, so I was already a big fan. We first met a few years later at a Myron And E show – I introduced myself, told them they were great and that was that. I didn’t know if we’d ever meet again. But then, a couple years ago, I sent them an email and asked about hooking up and they were very generous. We started talking and exchanging music and it grew into an LP.
Making soul music as an American in England that seems to touch on some of your home country’s problems, what is it like observing the troubles in the U.S. and translating them into music?
I don’t feel that connected to what’s happening in America. Of course I watch the news and I speak to friends there, but really, it feels very distant. My songs aren’t so much about America but the world in general. They way we live it. The mistakes we keep making. The problems we create.
What was the inspiration behind “Can’t Cheat the Dance”?
A good many years ago I was in the studio with my good buddy Adrian Sherwood when he was making a record with Lee Perry. Lee spent an hour perfecting a certain drum part and when I asked what he was doing, he said, You can’t cheat the dance. That really stuck with me. Adrian and Lee have both been huge influences on me – the idea that you can’t release second best records, that music should matter, that you should do whatever you need to do to get it right. If you release a dance track and it’s not right, it’s not going to work. You can’t cheat the dance. You can’t lie to the groove.
You seem to tap into a real deal soul sound with this album, and there are a handful of acts out there these days that really nail this sound. Are there any acts out there that you were looking to as you were working on this album?
The people I was thinking of, and listening to, were from an older generation. Al Green, Bobby Womack, Eddie Hinton, Lee Moses, Sam Dees, George Jackson. All the great southern soul guys. That said, I do listen to a lot of new music – I loved the Carlton Jumel Smith record, Bobby Orozo’s record, the Sean And Starr record – I listen to a lot of new jazz and hip-hop as well. So it’s all there, floating around the farm…
You seem to have a really solid grasp of real soul music. Can you share some of the classic soul albums that have been formative to you over the years?
I grew up listening to the radio. The radio, in the American midwest, was king. You heard everything from soul to country to gospel to folk. Late at night I could find stations that played black music and that opened up an entire world to me. I loved Bobby Womack and The Staple Singers and Joe Simon and all that country soul, Muscle Shoals / Memphis thing. I couldn’t really buy LPs because there was no where to buy them, but some of the songs that had the biggest influence on me were: Woman’s Got To Have It by Bobby Womack, The Chokin Kind by Joe Simon, I Hate Hate by Razzy, Back In The World by Curtis Mayfield, I’ll Take You There by The Staple Singers, Call Me by Al Green, Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get by The Dramatics.
Can we expect you to tour behind this release?
I hope so. These are strange times and who knows what the situation will be next week, but I’d love to. However it happens is alright with me – either solo or as a duo or with a whole band, show me a stage and I’ll get on it! I’m ready!
Photo credit: Peter Williams