The Blessings of Jeremy Ivey

On Waiting Out The Storm, Jeremy Ivey & The Extraterrestrials bring the walls janglin’ down with observational poetry, prophecy, and wit. Solid narratives and satisfyingly pop melodies echo Dylan at his hippest and Nick Lowe at his highest while tackling social disillusionment with rock n’ roll heart. Co-written and produced by his wife and musical partner, Margo Price (Ivey also co-wrote her latest, That’s How Rumors Get Started), Waiting Out The Storm lands somewhere left of the Americana dial, an oracular survivor of tornadoes and COVID-19 that could’ve been written and recorded four or forty years ago– or last Tuesday. 

AI- It was just a year ago that you were in Macon with Ian Noe on The Creek Stage. That would have also been right around the time of The Dream And The Dreamer came out. As we haven’t had an opportunity to speak to you since then, I wanted to dive back into that album just a bit. What made you finally realize that it was time to release a Jeremy Ivey solo album?

JI- I think I’d just written some songs that didn’t really fit into what Margo was doing at the time, and I liked ’em enough to where I wanted to go record ’em. I don’t think I was planning on doing a solo thing really, but just wanting to record the songs, make a permanent record of ’em. Among those songs, like the title track and “Diamonds Back to Coal”, “Falling Man”, a few of those, I wrote all around that time. I showed ’em to Margo and she liked ’em– but she wasn’t gonna to sing ’em. So I had to figure something out myself.

What’s that dynamic like when you’re writing and you’re working together? Because the latest album of hers not withstanding, The Dream And The Dreamer and even your new album have a stylistic difference to what Margo does. I know that you two collaborate deeply.

It works pretty good! We’re always challenging each other and we’re our biggest fan and our biggest critic too. When it comes to style, it just kind of changes throughout time, whatever we happen to be into at the time. I can’t do what she does, you know? Right now, I’m doin’ this kind of stuff, but it doesn’t mean I’m gonna stay in that. I definitely want to make a country record at some point too. We had a rock n’ roll band before. We wrote for that and when she started in the country thing, we both started getting into those records and just classic country stuff. We were both writin’ that stuff at the same time, so it all kind of works. The good thing about it is that we have the same references and influences, so we always kind of agree on what’s good and what’s bad.

If I understand it right, you had quite a bit of material written at the time that The Dream And The Dreamer came out. Does Waiting Out The Storm go back that far, or were those all written more recently?

No, that one’s new. I wrote all of [The Dream And The Dreamer] when I knew that ANTI- was gonna sign me, and I knew there was gonna be a follow-up record. It all came out pretty quick. I didn’t track any old songs on Waiting Out The Storm. I wrote ’em all before I took that trip with Ian, around that time. The last song that I wrote for that record was “Paradise Alley”, and I wrote that on tour with Ian Noe. So that was about a year ago. But I do have a lot of old songs. I have a lot of stuff that I’m eventually gonna probably record.

I wanted to ask you about when the tornadoes came through Nashville. I was reading an interview or an article with Margo, and she said that you had insisted that you leave… You’d gone out that evening, you insisted that you go home. Did you have a premonition that night that something was comin’? Or you just felt uneasy?

I don’t know! We went out for dinner and we went to a bar that we always used to go to. It’s called 3 Crow. It’s in Five Points in East Nashville. We had a couple of drinks and I think I was at the point where I was like, “Well, I’m gonna drive now or I’m gonna leave my car…” And I’m glad I didn’t, ’cause who knows if the car woulda got smashed or something. But I just didn’t want to get a Lyft, I just wanted to get the car home. So that was kind of the reason I was like, “Hey, I hit my wall, let’s go!” Margo wanted to hang a little bit longer, so we invited a couple of people back to our house. It started raining…

I’m usually pretty good about knowin’ the weather, but I was unaware that this was coming. And then our friends drove back. One of ’em, her car got hit by a tree on the way home. The storm was in full swing by the time that happened. I didn’t really have a premonition, but maybe I was just being led out of there by some other force! It was really crazy to drive around the next day and see everything that had happened. We went down and helped and donated some food and supplies. The Basement East, which is one of our favorite venues, was totaled. So many businesses are gone now that never came back, and then once the pandemic hit, it’s pretty hard on this little side of town.

Photo by Alysse Gafkjen

Let’s talk about that pandemic part because you are the first artist that I’ve spoken to that has in fact contracted COVID-19. You were down for almost three months?

It was a good two months where I was really sick. It’s not somethin’ I’ve ever experienced before because it’s not like a tangible sickness, you know? I think that what it preys on is your immune system, so if you’re not getting enough sleep or rest… I got it, originally, and had all the symptoms everybody has, which is like sore throat and dizzy and confused and cough and all that. And then those initial symptoms kinda wore off, and I thought I was out of the woods. But because we were there with two kids and no help, it was like the baby wasn’t sleeping, and I just never could get caught up on sleep. So I just kept getting worse and worse.

I didn’t know what to do. I got really bad a couple times, and I went to the ER. I couldn’t breathe, and at that point, they didn’t have enough, really anything, ventilators… They couldn’t really admit me. They just told me that if I could walk from my bed to the bathroom then they couldn’t do anything for me. The craziest thing about that was that I had to say goodbye to the family every time I went to the ER because if they do admit you and you get worse, they don’t let anyone see you. And if you die, that’s pretty much it. No hospital visitations. So yeah, that was surreal. Dealing with mortality is always something that’s hard to do but good for you in the end.

I hadn’t considered that part of it! Margo, the kids– they managed to stay healthy and not get it?

Yeah. They don’t have it. I have blood sugar issues. I’m like a borderline diabetic and they don’t have any of those things, so they were exposed to it, but they didn’t really have any symptoms or anything. They were all okay. We had a theory that the baby was feeling something, but she was too young to be able to explain it. She was really fussy and seemed kinda short of breath too for awhile. But my son was fine and Margo was fine. Margo had a couple times where she would stand up and get light headed and blackouts kind of a thing, but besides that, that was pretty much it.

And now I want to ask you about the video for “Things Could Get Much Worse”, which kind of encapsulates that experience, the tornado experience, and really 2020. Whose idea was the video and going out in the hazmat suit?

That was mine. A lot of times when you do videos, you get your quote for your budget and then you have to shop around ideas and get a treatment written, and then a video person will direct it and do the whole thing. Which I’ve done before. But it was kinda last minute, that song was about to come out. I said, “I don’t want to put a lyric video out for this one. I wanna do an actual video.” And the label said, “Well, whatta you wannna do?” And I just said, “Do you trust me?” They said, “Yeah, but we want to know what the idea is.” So I told ’em a basic idea. But when you do somethin’ like that, there’s no way to really write a script. You just have to see what happens.

I’ve always loved Sacha Baron Cohen and the whole live reaction to things that are happening, where there is no script, but you’re, in a way, messin’ with people and getting a real reaction. That was the idea. It was really hot. It’s hard to think now ’cause the temperature’s cooled down, but it was blazing! It was like 95 degrees– and probably a dumb idea for me to get in really hot rubber gloves and a hazmat suit and head covering! But I got through it! When I got done with it, we went back to the parking garage where we had parked. It was just me and my friend, Houston Mathews, who did the videoing of it.

We got back to the parking garage and I took the rubber gloves off– and there was just puddles of sweat coming out! But I got through it and it was funny and it was what I wanted. I wasn’t trying to put anyone on trial or anything. I just wanted to go downtown and see what was going on, but do it safely and go get a drink– and see if I could pull that off! People seemed to be mostly pretty happy about it. I was gettin’ high fives and a lotta laughs!

I’ve spoken to several people in your neck of the woods, in Nashville, since the pandemic has been goin’ on. Nobody is gettin’ out and playin’ or tourin’, but folks are releasing wonderful albums right now. Many of these albums were written pre-COVID and are only now seeing the light of day after being postponed. What had been your original plan for Waiting Out The Storm? Had you intended to release it sooner? And then your own trials happened?

No, nothing really changed for me. I don’t do a ton of touring anyways, so I was gonna stick to my schedule. I’ve been meaning to put out a record a year for awhile. The last one came out in September last year and this one came in October. So probably next year, I’ll have one either in September or October. That was always the plan. All the songs were written before the pandemic, but there was a lot of stuff that was happening already that fit into now pretty well.

Absolutely. I was gonna ask you about how you felt having a record that even at this point in time, a week away from an election, is so timely.

School shootings and church shootings and racism and all this stuff’s been goin’ on for a while. The division in our country’s been goin’ on for awhile, which I hate. So yeah, I was writing from that point of view that the madness was building– and still is! I don’t think I’ll necessarily stick on this path of writing about current themes necessarily. I’d rather write about things from my imagination, which is more fun for me, but I think some of the stuff had to be said. Ignoring it doesn’t necessarily work all the time. So it was cathartic to write those songs. I hope I’ll always write things that have a little bit of timelessness to ’em.

One of the biggest topics, when I’ve spoken to other artists, has been that balance of family and how that’s shifted from before the pandemic– kinda forcin’ everybody underground or at least back home. You’ve managed to hit every shade on the spectrum of things that can and do happen amongst COVID-19 and families this year. What do you see happenin’ in the future? How will this change how you deal with being a husband and a father and an artist going forward?

Well, for me personally, I think that all the things that I’ve been through this year have given me a new perspective on what my family means to me. In a weird way, it’s been a blessing. Because we have this small one and we would have been on tour a lot. We would have been away from her or she would have been coming with us– and our son too– but yeah, it turned out to be a blessing where we could actually spend this whole year giving our full attention to our kids. It took a little bit to adjust to that, to not have things in the calendar, but I think, in the end, it’s brought us closer together. Our son understands what’s going on and he’s dealt with it pretty well. Of course the baby doesn’t know what’s going on and she’s fine with that. Weirdly enough, it’s been a good thing in lots of ways!

Waiting Out The Storm is available now on all your favorite digital platforms or directly from ANT- Records. Like & Follow Jeremy Ivey for news & LIVE performance updates!