Originally published in Guitar World, April 2010
Shooting Jennings returns and chats with Guitar World about his latest album, Black Ribbons.
Shooter Jennings' debut, 2005’s Put the O Back in Country, was a ripsnorting fusion of hard-rocking guitars and country swagger, just what was expected from the son of country outlaw Waylon Jennings. It stayed on the country charts for more than a year, but over the course of three more albums Jennings began to chafe against the Nashville musical establishment and decided to make a break.
“We had a little success and the country industry tried to put their claws in and say, ‘You have to do it our way,’ ” he says. “That left me with a sour taste and showed me who my friends were. I’m very proud of those records, but I also wanted to show all the colors to my personality, so I left town and I didn’t look back. I got out of my label and my manager, and went home with nothing, broke and in debt, because that whole game is not who I am.”
Jennings began to branch out to more rock fans on last summer’s Warped Tour and has now made a sharp left turn with Black Ribbons, a sprawling Pink Floyd–esque concept album sparked by grinding industrial guitars and held together by a monologue co-written and read by novelist Stephen King, playing the part of a libertarian DJ about to be taken off the air by a totalitarian regime. Jennings is clearly blazing his own trails.
“With this record, I think I relieved myself of any expectations I’ve built up over the years,” he says. “I had moments of doubt and had to remind myself that I couldn’t think about the fans, because what brought me fans in the first place was making records for me, not what I thought someone wanted to hear. Recording this album was stepping out on a limb, but I feel comfortable there.”