Jackson Browne is far from running on empty. In a career spanning more than four decades, Browne’s never strayed too far from the self-aware music for which he is widely known – and the pressure to keep recording music that is in touch with what matters is still high on his agenda. We welcome a songwriting icon to talk about the artists who’ve shaped his sound.
In his mid-60s, and with 18 million albums sold, Jackson Browne shows no signs of slowing down. He’s in the middle of a tour to promote his latest album Standing In The Breach and Accompanying Jackson on the road are long-time band mates Val McCallum (guitar), Mauricio Lewak (Drums), Jeff Young (keyboards) and Bob Glaub (bass), with the addition of acclaimed multi-instrumentalist Greg Leisz (guitar, lap steel, pedal steel). Standing In The Breach, Jackson’s 14th studio album, is a collection of 10 songs, at turns deeply personal and political, exploring love, hope, and defiance in the face of the advancing uncertainties of modern life.
It’s clear that Jackson Browne still has the desire to go on writing and recording new music, and taking it around the world to perform live. We ask him if he thinks his best work is yet to come. ‘That’s certainly a hope. I think, at this stage, I will settle for not repeating myself, or at least to be aiming for something that will be a worthy addition to the songs I have already written. There is always the question about how long you will be able to do this. The inner question is whether what you are doing is still in touch with what matters. When you are young, you are wondering if this is good enough for anyone to listen to it, but when you are old, you wonder if it’s good enough to add to your body of work. You have to pay attention to that.’
What of the artists who’ve influenced Jackson Browne and shaped his sound, though? Here, he tells us the three most important players who’ve inspired his music.
“Martin is in a class of his own. He is such an expressive player; he is ingenious in his use of the guitar. You can listen to one of his songs and three or four minutes in, he has only used the top four strings and not even played a bass note yet, and when he does, it feels like an orchestra coming in. His clarity of playing is just amazing.”
“David is one of my favourite acoustic players, even though he is mostly known for his electric playing. I did a lot of touring with him two or three years ago, and his acoustic set was just amazing, and he is playing more acoustic these days. His expression, and his use of chord shapes are unique. He is a very emotional player who always serves the song.”
“Greg is another multi-instrumentalist whose acoustic playing is incredible, and I found that out working with him in the studio. Acoustic playing can either cloud an arrangement, or the arrangement can cloud the acoustic. Greg was playing acoustic on a song that was already cut, and he found notes and patterns that actually magnified the song and the guitar sound. The arrangement and the tone that he brought to the studio, and his choice of notes made the acoustic sound huge. He is on my album The Naked Ride Home, playing some 12-string, and he made everything on the track sound better with his acoustic playing.”