The story of Jamestown Revival feels suited for the dog-eared pages of a timeless American novel. Chapter one opens with Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance meeting in Magnolia, TX at 15-years-old. Fast friends, the duo attended college together, started Jamestown Revival, and traded their home state for Los Angeles, CA in late 2011.
By 2014 they released their debut album UTAH (which included the hit single ‘California’), built a committed fan base with countless road shows, and received critical acclaim from the likes of Rolling Stone and The Wall Street Journal. They were named iTunes “Best of 2014: Singer-Songwriter Album of the Year,” graced the sound stages of Conan and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and performed at some of America’s legendary music festivals including Coachella, Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo, Bottlerock Festival, and Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic.
“UTAH opened a lot of doors for us and put us on the road for the first time,” says Zach. “We learned how to play for a crowd and how to perform.” But when it came time to record a second album, the band found themselves in a different place. “This album is like chapter two,” agrees Jonathan. “The story begins at the point where we decided to head back to Texas. We wrote many of the songs when we were entering a different phase of our lives. We settled back into Austin, and my wife and I had our first child. That was a big shift. It was all about leaving behind our last bastion of adolescence, if you will.”
This process resulted in The Education Of A Wandering Man [Republic Records], an album that looks back at the journey of the band’s past. The record chronicles the lessons learned and the experiences that color the life-lived along the way. “This album is a snapshot of our observations and learnings over the past four years. Our education has been gained not in a classroom, but in our experience,” Zach and Jonathan write in a letter to fans announcing the album.
Musically, the record remains loyal to Jamestown Revival’s indie rock/alt country aesthetic while also reaching into new creative territory. “You can hear all of our influences on the new album. It feels like a late night drive after a show. There’s some Motown, rock ‘n’ roll, and even a little country. We paid homage to a lot of the people we listened to while stuck in a car between gigs,” says Zach.
Tapping into almost a lifetime of natural chemistry, the band started sharing musical ideas while sitting on Jonathan’s porch before holing up in a Hill Country farmhouse a few hours from Austin for recording. Producing themselves alongside longtime collaborator Ryan Lipman, the sessions lasted only two weeks, and Jamestown Revival emerged with 12 new tracks.
“It was a bunch of good friends in a relaxed setting making a record,” says Zach. “It never felt like a nine-to-five. We could have a smoke outside, play horse on the basketball hoop, and hang out and wait for the muse to find us.” Though the record came together quickly, nailing down the first song proved more difficult. After wrestling to overcoming the pressure, the band emerged with their first single “Love Is A Burden,” kick-starting the creative process.
“We wrote that song about our last single ‘California’,” admits Jonathan. “When we started writing, all we did was compare every song we wrote to ‘California.’ We never thought anything lived up to it, and that started to squelch our creativity. This piece of music that did amazing things for us became like a lead weight. ‘Love Is A Burden’ is about the successes, the failures, the triumphs, and the fears of the past really starting to weigh you down and having a hard time moving on. It’s a metaphor we related to a relationship you can’t move past in the lyrics. As far as inspiration goes, the chorus just popped in my head, and we ran with it. After all of that overthinking, it was done in ten minutes.”
Album opener “Company Man” captures the heartbreak of corporate greed. “My family’s got some land where we birthed the idea of Jamestown Revival, and we’ve both been going there together since we were kids,” says Jonathan. “"One day my family gets a call that there’s an oil company who wants to put a pipeline right through the property. They were doing it under the protection of ‘public domain’. That piece of land is sacred to us, but ironically, nobody else cared about it until there was something to gain.” "Company Man" speaks to that feeling of helplessness and frustration.
“American Dream” comments on similar themes, while “Head On” explores the claustrophobia of the concrete jungle. Elsewhere, the acoustic-driven “Back To Austin” serves as an upbeat love letter to their hometown. Throughout, the record speaks to themes inherent to the meaning within its title The Education Of A Wandering Man.
“The Education Of A Wandering Man is actually an autobiography by classic western novelist Louis L’Amour,” Zach says. “He traveled the world and lived a fascinating life. Jonathan and I read the book years ago and fell in love with it. It’s like looking back on a life unplanned. That really resonated with us when we were making the album. The more you travel, the more perspective you get. Our travels have been an education.”
For Jamestown Revival, the album is simply a continuation of their ongoing story. “We’ll be writing and telling stories until we’re six feet under,” Jonathan leaves off. “This album is just the next step on the path.”