‘I am those characters’: Tony Logue’s Jericho

Tony Logue throttles forward, spraying gravel with Jericho, a flash burned alt-country opus that plumbs the notions of faith and family with fiddle, steel, and the simple truth of a J-45.

Engineered by Sean Sullivan (Sturgill Simpson, Tyler Childers) and recorded in Goodlettsville, TN at Mark Howard’s Tractor Shed studio, Logue’s regulars are joined by a wealth of special guests including Streeldriver Tammy Rogers, pedal steel guitarist Russ Pahl (Sturgill Simpson, Nathaniel Rateliff, Yola), drummer Miles Miller (Sturgill Simpson), and pianist Mike Rojas (Hayes Carll, Shannon & The Clams, George Strait).

Like 2018’s Serpents & Saviors, the 42-year-old songwriter from Benton, Kentucky excels in rendering the shadows on the outskirts into breathing men and women doing their best to navigate anger, love, and the ever-present challenges of despair and futility. Real life isn’t always win-or-lose, sometimes it’s a stalemate, and Logue offers up that wisdom simply, often brutally, with mirror-like clarity.

Jericho is available now on all your favorite digital platforms and directly from the artist.

AI- You started writing, I wouldn’t say late, but you were in your early ’20s when you started workin’ at becomin’ a songwriter. What were you doin’ before that?

TL- As far as music goes, I never did the cover band scene really or had a bunch of bands or anything like that. I had my own band back in my late ’20s probably, and we would do a lot of cover stuff, but it was like obscure Steve Earle songs and tryin’ to play my songs. But I’ve always been a welder of sorts– a pipe fitter or welder or doing millwright work– pretty much my whole adult life.

The “welder” figures as a very prominent character in a lot of your music. I’d wondered if that was from a personal experience or observation.

Yeah, for sure. It keeps showing up, and I think if it didn’t, I would probably be doing a disservice to my songwriting. That’s who I am, that’s how I came up. I know those characters. I am those characters. There’s pieces of me in all those folks. So yeah, the welder, he shows up often (laughs) for good reason!

Serpents & Saviors— was that your debut in 2018? Had you done much recording before that point?

Well, I actually had made a couple other records. I made a record, an EP, I guess you could say, in 2008. It was terrible! So there’s not a whole lotta it floatin’ around. If you know where to look, you could probably still find a couple of those songs, but I hope you don’t! I actually made a pretty good record in 2012. It was called Reckless Kind, and we made it in Nashville with a pretty good producer. And it was a good record! It served its purpose, I guess. It had some good songs on it and a couple songs that we still play from time to time. That was 2012, but nobody really knows about any of that stuff. It just kind of got swept under the rug, but it’s out there.

Do you feel like Serpents & Saviors, maybe it wasn’t your musical debut, but maybe it was the debut of Tony Logue as he stands right now?

Yeah, I do! I sure do. It was Tony Logue as a songwriter. Some of those older songs, you could tell that there might’ve been somethin’ goin’ on there, but the 2018 record, that was probably when I felt like I came into my own as these are the songs that I write and this is what I do.

That record is on the leaner end, mostly you and a guitar with some atmospheric accompaniment. Let’s talk about Jericho. First off, tell me when you were in the studio puttin’ this album together.

That was July of last year, of 2021, when we went in to do that down in Nashville with a friend of mine, Cole Chaney. I don’t know if you guys are onto Cole Chaney or not?

I learned about him through you.

Oh my gosh, man! Y’all should dig into Cole! He’s the real thing! But long story short, Cole introduced me to Sean Sullivan, and of course, I knew who Sean was just because I’m a fan of the records he’s made the last few years, you know, the Tyler Childers records and the Sturgill [Simpson] records and just a lot of great, great records that are stuff that I’m really into. I’d actually had plans to or was trying to get together with another producer that I thought I needed to work with. He had produced some of my favorite stuff as well, and he loved my songs [but] we just never could get together. He’s a very busy guy and I get it…

Who was that?

Ray Kennedy is who it was.

Awww, I love Ray!

Oh my gosh, man, me too! Ray’s just busy! Anyway, me and Cole were on the road actually. One weekend, he was just like, “My gosh, man, you’ve got to get this record done. If anything, just for my own selfish, personal reasons where I can listen to these songs! These songs are just way too good to be sittin’ on a shelf.” So he said, “Let me just introduce you to Sean.” I called up Sean and sent him over some songs and he said, “Hey, come on, man. Let’s do this thing!” It worked out great, and I’m proud that’s the way it went. Don’t get me wrong, I love Ray Kennedy and hope maybe we’ll do somethin’ down the road, but this one couldn’t have been better!

You brought in a full band this time. Tell me about your regular band, the guys that play with you, and then you’ve also got some stellar special guests that appear on Jericho.

My regular, my full-time band, I guess you could say, a couple of those guys have been with me since, shoot, the beginning, since 2008, 2009 era! Jason Munday, he’s a Lexington, Kentucky guy. He lives in Nashville now, but he played the drums. Kyle Robertson played the bass guitar. He’s been with me since 2008, 2009. Derrick Rucker played the guitar. He’s been with me for a few years now. Just a great fit and a monster player and just proud to have him. That’s my road band for the last few years. When I talked to Sean, I said, “Hey, I’d like to bring my guys down,” which is not really a common thing. A lotta times folks don’t do that. They use all the A-list players and the hired hands– for good reason! Those guys are fantastic, but my guys are good too, you know?

I knew we’d been road doggin’ these songs for a year or so, and we had some ideas on the direction I thought they should go. Sean said, “Yeah, bring those guys down!” He brought on Russ Paul to play steel guitar. I think Russ played all the steel and some acoustic guitar here and there. He’s just a monster, monster player, and has played on every record that I love since I was a kid! All the Chris Knight records, everything that I love, Russ Paul was involved in! A guy named Mike Rojas, [Sean] brought in on the keys, and same thing, just an A-list guy, just an incredible guy. And then Sean called in Miles Miller that plays drums for Sturgill and he sang all the high parts. And it was crazy! I couldn’t even believe it was really happening!

Tammy Rogers came in and played some fiddle and sang and orchestrated all the 3-part harmonies. She’s just a genius and a genuine human that I’m proud to have met and proud to know and hopefully get to work with in the future. I’ve always been a huge Steeldriver’s fan and a [Chris] Stapleton fan, and I mean, everybody knows Tammy Rogers! Matt Combs is a monster player, and he came in and played some fiddle and some mandolin. Mark Howard played some mandolin. It was actually recorded at Mark’s place [the Tractor Shed]. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Mark? He played on the Sturgill Cuttin’ Grass records. I can’t even believe that it’s real, really!

Jericho is overwhelmingly about family and relationships and the myriad outside forces that threaten all of that. How much of that comes from you the individual and how much from being an observer of what goes on around you?

I would say a little bit of both. The family ties, I just feel like that’s good Americana subject matter. And I’m not tryin’ to fit some kinda mold or anything, I’m just sayin’ that those are good… You know, I’m such a Springsteen fan. My gosh, not many have influenced the way I want to write songs more than Springsteen, and he would do that, write about the father/son relationship a lot. I was just drawn to those kind of songs and those kind of subjects. I had a great relationship with my dad and my mom, but if I strictly wrote about my own personal experience, I’d probably have a pretty boring record (laughs)! So there’s some stuff that’s embellished, [but] I’m just trying to craft stories that mean something and resonate with people and people can plug theirself into is basically what I was trying to do with that.

With “Calloway County” and “Sins of My Father”, as a father, do you find writing songs like that helps put your role into perspective with two sons of your own?

I would like to hope so. I would like to hope that it does. I try to be a good example, and some of those issues in songs like that are from my personal experience. I have seen folks that are near and dear to me that struggle with alcohol and other things like that. I’m attentive to that, and I try not to go down those roads, especially in the career path that I’m tryin’ to take. It’s easy to indulge in things, you know?

And expected as well, I would say.

Sure, right! Yeah, if you don’t operate that way, you’re kinda in the minority. Maybe not so much anymore. I think it used to be that way.

I think the stigma is certainly becoming removed thanks to certain artists.

Me too. It’s not necessarily the cool thing to be strung out on the road anymore. A lot of our favorites are showing that you can do this and be sober. Not that there’s anything wrong with havin’ a drink or whatever– to each his own. I’m just sayin’ that I keep a close eye on some things like that to make sure I stay the right path. I don’t know if some of those things are hereditary. I’ve heard they are. Anyway, I just keep a close monitor on things and try to try to stay the course, and hopefully, my boys see that.

Now, I am a to-the-bone Chris Knight fan, and I know that you are too. We’ve mentioned him already in this conversation. “Road To Richmond”… You have written a sequel to Chris’ “Carla Came Home” from the father’s perspective. Tell me about doing that, man! Has Chris heard it?

I like to think that he has. There’s some folks in his camp that are close to Chris, and I’m pretty sure he is prolly not sortin’ through Facebook or anything (laughs)!

He does not!

Yeah, yeah, yeah! He don’t go online or watch TV, right (laughs)? I would like to think that he has, but I haven’t got a chance to talk to him since the record’s came out. Hopefully, we’re gonna get some time together here on the road or maybe I can at least catch one of his shows anyway even if I’m not involved!

I don’t even really know what brought that up. It was just something I wanted to do. I tried to write a song like that just ’cause I love songs like that, for one thing. Somebody could take my record and listen and be like, “Well, that’s a great song,” and it stands as its own piece. But somebody like you and I, who is pretty well-versed in Chris Knight, as soon as they hear that, they’re gonna be like, “Oh my gosh, that’s the character from ‘Carla Came Home’!”

That was the idea, to both have it be its own song but also incorporate all that stuff there. Somebody asked me not too long ago, “Why’d you choose ‘Carla’?” I was like, “Man, you coulda chose a million Chris Knight songs, you know?” All of his songs could go on forever or you could write what happened before “Down The River” or whatever. But I don’t know? I just love “Carla Came Home”!

I’m intrigued by the idea of picking up the story and running with it because his songs, in particular, because they’re so real-world and lived-in, it’s not like a movie where everybody rides off into the sunset and everything’s happy. In a Chris Knight song, life still goes on and it may not be any better than it was in the song. So picking up the story and running with it and trying to see where it goes, all guts, glory, warts, and all, I appreciate that idea.

Well, thank you, man. That’s one of my favorite things I’ve done in a while just because I’m such a Chris Knight fan. I thought that was a nice way to tip my hat. There’s no bigger heroes in what I’m tryin’ to do than Chris Knight. He’s just monumental in my journey, the way I want to write songs, just everything about his career. He maintains his family and his farm, and he’s always been kind of a true north of the way that I wanted to operate.

Jericho is available now at tonyloguemusic.com or through all your favorite digital platforms! Like & Follow Tony Logue for news and LIVE performance updates!