It’s said that you shouldn’t meet your ‘heroes’, but when it came to recording their second EP, UK country/Americana band The Jackson Line decided to pack their bags, head to Canada, and do exactly that.
With one EP already under their belt, the band knew they needed something special to underline their presence on the UK’s country music scene – and they knew who to call.
Step forward legendary award-winning producer Murray Pulver, longtime collaborator with The Bros. Landreth, the band that all three band members – Keith Porter, Jamie Cook and Jim Cross – name as their number one favourite artist.
Keith explains: “Back in the summer of 2021 we had started to record our second EP and we realised we were basically replicating the process of the first one. We pressed the pause button and sought advice about where we would be best spending our money.
“Jim suggested asking Joey Landreth. Because of the pandemic, he was offering online sessions and we said ok, if we can book a session with our musical hero, why wouldn’t we – so we did.”
Fast forward to Joey critiquing the band’s new songs and explaining that when you listen to a band you like, the chances are the producer had just as much input into the sound as the artist did.
“Joey’s advice was to listen to the records you love, find out the producer and send him a message because you never know. We reflected on that and thought to ourselves that the album we all collectively love the most is Let It Lie from The Bros. Landreth, so why not contact their producer, Murray Pulver, who just happens to be a multi-Juno, CCMA and WCMA award-winning producer.
“I remember Jim and I going back and forth with that email because it felt like such a big deal…”
Whatever they said it clearly worked, as Canada-based Murray gave them the thumbs up. Initially working over Zoom, he challenged them to make their songs ‘tighter and better’ and the storytelling stronger.
With initial plans to record in London, it was Jim who once again asked the (fortunately not quite) million-dollar question: “Why aren’t we going to Winnipeg?”
Keith says: “It came down to two things, number one was money and number two was family. We felt with some planning, we could probably sort out the money, and then our families said unanimously, ‘of course you have to go’.
“In the meantime, we carried on over Zoom, working out which seven songs to record and Murray, in his very gentle Canadian way, was giving us ideas. There’s a lovely example with the track California, he said ‘I kind of hear it like this’ and each of us started smiling and looking at each other. It was this kind of realisation, ‘of course, that’s how it should have sounded all the time’, we would never have got there without Murray.”
I wanted to know if someone changing a song that you’ve poured your heart and soul into is difficult to take.
Keith says no: “If someone is critiquing your song and you are insulted by that, then it is your ego talking. One of the best things about The Jackson Line is we all lost our egos years ago, which means we are super open to people giving us feedback.
“Knowing Murray’s background and what he has achieved during his career gave us complete trust that if it’s coming from him, it’s probably going to make it better.
“And the way he delivered it was ‘here’s an idea…’ it was never, ‘I want to make this song super different’, it’s like ‘I kind of hear it like this…’ or ‘I think something might need to change’, it was always really guiding us rather than dictating.”
On arrival in Canada last summer, the band headed to Stereobus Recording studio in Winnipeg, where they got to work not just with Murray but with Ryan Voth (who played drums for The Bros. Landreth) and a bass player.
As Keith says: “It felt like every day there was a moment…from playing a guitar that was used on one of our favourite ever tracks, to seeing that whole process evolve.
“We were there for 11 days and it was exhausting in the best possible way, it was just so exciting to see and to be a part of bringing our songs to life. There was a lot of magic.”
With the recording mostly completed, it was back to the UK for fine-tuning and mixing with support from Stereobus owner and studio engineer Paul Ye, who had joined them for the Winnipeg sessions.
Together with Murray (now back on zoom) the band went through the tracks one-by-one, adding a little Dobro guitar here – thanks to Josh Matheny who played Dobro on the Carly Pearce track Every Little Thing – and adding keys from The Hello Darlins’ world-renowned keyboardist Mike Little.
Keith continues: “Murray had options for every instrument and would really match the player with what we were trying to achieve. They were like the accents that rounded out the songs and gave them extra texture and flourishes, it was such a wonderful feeling to know that such respected musicians played on our EP.”
I was curious to know if, prior to their trip, The Jackson Line had been worried about being seen as British band ‘wannabees’ playing country music.
“That’s what we thought it would be like, but it was a reversal of expectations. They couldn’t believe people from the UK wanted to come and work with them, and let them help influence our songs, they were so kind and gracious about that.”
In the same way as Murray matched them with the right session musicians, he also set them up with Canadian mastering genius Trevor Case, who recently mastered Belinda Carlisle’s latest song.
With one single, the summery Shade of the Pines already dropped, the next track Gonna Get To You is due out on June 2 (available to pre-save) and the band’s EP California is due to be released in October.
Keith describes it as a collection of five upbeat songs and two more mellow ones – not least The Day That I Held You, about the arrival of his son Lucas.
Looking ahead, he hopes the EP will be a springboard towards more shows, more festivals and growing the band’s following on social media.
Ultimately though, he says, the EP is about that feeling of wanting something different, of seizing the moment – I think we can safely say that The Jackson Line is practicing what they preach.
(All Stereobus photos: Laina Brown @Folks Films)
Catch the band this summer at events including:
June 7 229 The Venue, London with Eddy Smith & The 507
June 16-18 Black Deer Festival, Kent
June 21 Nashville Meets London, PizzaExpress Holborn
July 27-30 Chickenstock Music Festival, Kent
Aug 5 – Hot Box Country & Folk Festival, Essex
Follow the band on socials: https://www.facebook.com/thejacksonline