To make their new album, the members of the multi-platinum, two-time Grammy Award–winning Old Crow Medicine Show didn’t just do things their own way. They built their own studio, one closer to clubhouse than recording haunt and a place where they felt at home.
It was in East Nashville’s Hartland Studio, which the band acquired and began to build out to its exact specifications in 2020, where Old Crow cut its seventh album, Paint This Town. And it was the first time since the late ’90s, when the band members would hang a solitary mic in their rehearsal room and cut straight to a four-track, that they were creating a record in a space that was theirs alone.
Paint This Town is an album that explores the rich history of American country and roots music while not shying away from the South’s darker corners. The album is full of stompers and moments of sheer exultation right beside intimate character studies and songs that tackle more topical themes. And it does what Old Crow has always done with such aplomb—look inward to examine the pitfalls and praxes of modern relationships.
The track “Honey Chile”—which Garden & Gun is proud to premiere below—paints an image of longing, reminiscing about a time, and perhaps a person, from the narrator’s past. Musically, the song is something of a salvo for the whole of Paint This Town, rising out of the gates with a bold swell before settling into a traditional Americana-tinged groove. But as fans of the band might expect, a sense of propulsive rock and roll is hiding just around the corner, showcasing Old Crow’s uncanny ability to make music that honors the past just as much as it looks toward the future. It’s a balance struck all over Paint This Town, which also features a few new members, including drummer and mandolin player Jerry Pentecost and multi-instrumentalists Mike Harris and Mason Via.
Watch the video for “Honey Chile”—filmed at Hartland Studio—below. And read on to hear from Old Crow frontman Ketch Secor on recording the album. Paint This Town is out April 22 and available for preorder here.
What role did owning your own studio play in the making of this record?
Well, it’s in a spot that’s always been on our map, as it’s in a corridor of East Nashville where we used to stay. We’ve been passing the building for over twenty years. We filled it with some good gear, wrote a lot of good songs there, put in a lot of sweat equity, and have turned it into a great spot to make music and keep the spirit of a twenty-three-year-old band alive. We used the record to get the studio ready. It’s sort of like the way Old Crow used to use the street corner to practice. We would hit the curb, and that would be practice.
Playing live has of course been uncertain over the last couple of years. I imagine there’s a lot of anticipation to bring this album to the stage.
This is the fastest turnaround, from recording to release, we’ve ever had in twenty-three years. And that’s because Covid allowed us to make this record without all the distractions of touring. Some of the songs have bigger arrangements, which has a lot to do with our partner Jerry Pentecost, who’s been in the band for about four years now. But it’s the first time our band’s ever had a full-time drummer, so that’s gonna ratchet up a lot of the excitement onstage.
There’s a pervasive sense of yearning for home on this album, especially on a song like “Honey Chile.” Not home in the physical sense as much as home as a concept. Tell me a bit about that.
Home is always one of the themes that I tend to write about. My home is a landscape of American roots music, and that’s a far-stretching sonic landscape that is very much anchored in the American South. I might be taking you up to Big Sandy, where the opioid epidemic is killing folks left and right. Or I might take you down to the Delta, where a new Mississippi flag is being conceived of. And in both cases, I’m just trying my best to show you what I’ve seen in my travels over the last twenty years as I’ve tried to make my own kind of home in these ramblings.
Do you consider the new studio your new home?
When I think about having a studio, it just makes me think about [record producer and singer/songwriter] Cowboy Jack, who actually lived in his studio. And I think about what it is to make your life and your work exist in the same space. It’s not the same for us exactly, but this is about as close as it gets to being able to go to work the minute you get out of bed. I really like keeping things close like that, that feeling of home; it’s where the heart is.