Talking to Cris Jacobs

Newton /
| 04 May 2024 | 11:32

Stefani M.C. Janelli interviews singer-songwriter Cris Jacobs after the release of his album “One of These Days.”

He made his debut at the Grand Ole Opry last month and is on tour supporting Tommy Emmanuel. They will be at the Newton Theatre on Saturday, May 11.

Question: You’ve released two albums since 2016, and you’re back with your third record and the first one in five years, “One of These Days.” What was the inspiration behind these songs?

Answer: With this record, I really made a conscious attempt to go back to the well of the music that first inspired me when I was learning to play: bluegrass, blues, folk, gospel. I immersed myself in listening to that stuff while I was writing. And I wrote all of the songs on an acoustic guitar. That was the extent of the intention that I set for this record.

Q: The record includes the Infamous Stringdusters along with other friends like Billy Strings, Sam Bush, Lee Ann Womack, the McCrary Sisters, Lindsay Lou and more. What was it like working with these prolific players?

A: Inspirational. To work with folks like that elevates everyone in the room. They are all total pros who are masters of their craft. Their mastery and commitment to the music pushed me to be the absolute best I could be at all times.

Q: All of the tracks on this record were recorded live. Why was that something that was important to you?

A: Bluegrass is a communal style of music. It is ensemble music, played all together, with everyone playing the dynamics themselves instead of relying on any post-production tricks. So whereas not all of the songs are straight ahead bluegrass, that spirit was where we started from on all of the songs.

Q: Your last few years have been described as hard but transformative. Can you explain more about how this time has affected you and your songwriting?

A: I’ve done a lot of work on myself over the last few years, and when you become more honest with yourself and what drives you and what helps propel your best work, you hone in on those things. I was able to realize some flaws in my processes and try to move past them. Mainly, letting go of the crippling perfectionism that can stifle creativity. By working on myself and overcoming some emotional and mental roadblocks beyond songwriting, I was able to come to the table with a more relaxed, confident, humble approach that I feel allowed me to move forward and finish things that I started.

Q: You’ve explained that through these years you’ve experienced a sort of “musical identity crisis.” What or who was at the center of helping you find yourself and moving past your musical crisis?

A: I think diving deep back into that well of American roots music really helped. I’ve always explored many genres of music, but that has always been my center. By embracing that this time around, I felt grounded and clear with my intentions.

Q: Which part of this record did you find to be the most cathartic for you? Is there any particular song that did that for you?

A: Finishing it. It never feels comfortable until it’s done, but to listen back to the finished product after all of the work put into it, I was finally able to take a breath and feel like we had done something really special.

Q: What is the message you hope listeners receive through “One of These Days”?

A: I’ve never been too hung up about that. I just hope the music makes them feel good.

Q: You just made your debut at the legendary Grand Ole Opry in Nashville on April 27, congratulations! On May 11, you’ll be taking the stage at the Newton Theatre supporting the great guitar virtuoso Tommy Emmanuel. What part of touring with Tommy are you most looking forward to?

A: I haven’t met him yet! I cannot wait to absorb his massive talent and wisdom as best I can.

Q: What songs can we expect to hear on the Newton Theatre setlist?

A: You’ll have to come find out!

Q: What are you most looking forward to after the release of “One of These Days”?

A: Having folks hear the record and enjoy it and having them come out to hear us play the songs live.