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How a singer lost his religion and has boosted his creativity

JACE EVERETT may have lost his faith, but he's strengthened his creativity.

LOOKING BACK: Jace Everett has returned to Bible stories from his youth and looked at them from a new perspective now he is in his thirties.
LOOKING BACK: Jace Everett has returned to Bible stories from his youth and looked at them from a new perspective now he is in his thirties.

The Texas singer-songwriter appears at Oran Mor this Sunday for Celtic Connections, on the back of arguably his most satisfying album yet, Terra Rosa.

It's a record that uses the Bible as a starting point, turning tales both familiar and obscure into songs.

That might surprise people who only know Everett for penning the theme tune to vampire TV series True Blood, but religion has formed a backdrop to his lyrics for several years, reflecting a background that saw him grow up a devout Christian who wasn't allowed to listen to rock 'n' roll music until into his late teens.

"I've always used a lot of religious metaphors because that's the language I grew up speaking, but it's nice to go and hit the nail on the head, and go directly to my youth growing up with these stories and then dig into it from my perspective now," he says.

"I just picked stories that kinda turned me on - there were obvious ones like Cain and Abel, because it's a great story and every culture, not just Judeo-Christian and Islam, has creation stories and murder stories, so that had to be told.

"Some of the others, though, they were more obscure but it was just stuff that bothers me about the Bible, stuff that excites me about the Bible and stuff I don't understand about it."

It's all set to the music Everett specialises in, a brew of country and blues, topped off by his distinctive, forceful voice. While Everett admits that he came to rock music as a late bloomer, only discovering The Beatles and the Rolling Stones aged 18, music had been in his blood for some time.

He'd regularly sung in church, and listened to plenty of Christian music as a teenager. In his twenties though, he walked away from religion, although the mark it left on him is evident from his lyrics, on Terra Rosa and on the previous four albums the 41-year-old has released.

"When I first started moving away from religious faith, there was a lot of anger and resentment, all those childish emotions that you have when you break up with someone," he reflects.

"Looking back, I'm grateful for it, as it gave me a strong moral and ethical foundation, and it brought me some amazing stories. I wouldn't have this record without it."

Faith aside, Everett admits he's the opposite of many of today's musicians, who enjoy success while still in their teens. He was in his mid-thirties by the time he brought out his first record, and being able to make a living as a musician later in his life has helped provide the singer with perspective on events.

"I was a father by 23 so in certain areas I bloomed plenty early, but I had a lot of responsibilities at a young age, so I wasn't going to run away with the circus at 18. "I did that in my thirties instead. It gives me a different perspective, I certainly don't write a lot of party music. I'm a miserable b******, and I want people to join me on my misery."

The prospect of this Sunday's appearance at Oran Mor does, however, bring a cheerful response. The gig will be a stripped back affair featuring just Everett and guitarist Dan Cohen, and the troubadour believes that focusing on the songs should ensure a suitable atmosphere for a Celtic Connections gig.

"It's not Celtic, or bluegrass, or mountain music, but that tradition of telling a story through song and having people dance to it, that's there.

"I don't know if my full band would be appreciated there, but me and Dan should be a good fit and I hope people enjoy it."

Even in such a stripped down format, it's almost certain Bad Things, his 2005 tune that became the theme to True Blood, will feature. While Everett frequently pens material with a sombre tone, his biggest hit was just a piece of fun.

"It's not always about the stories, sometimes you just want to have fun. Bad Things is just a novelty song that got famous through a TV show, it's got a bit of a narrative, but it's hardly Kris Kristofferson. I enjoy doing both styles of song - I like the steak to be surrounded by vegetables."

Jace Everett plays Oran Mor on Sunday.

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