Last night Jason Isbell, a native of the Shoals area in north Alabama, won big at the Americana Honors & Awards in Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, taking home the award for Song of the Year for “Alabama Pines.” “I want to thank the terrible hotels of north Florida for inspiring me to write this,” he joked.
Biscuits & Jam with Jason Isbell / Alabama Pines
- “Come Around” – Written and performed by Sarah Jarosz (an artist we tapped as one of five to watch last year)
- “I Love” – Written by Tom T. Hall and performed by Patty Griffin
- “Waitin’ On The Sky” – Written and performed by Steve Earle
Earlier this year, Jason stopped by Southern Living for a Biscuits & Jam session and a little chat. Check out his exclusive Southern Living performance of “Alabama Pines” above.
DISHING WITH JASON ISBELL
What do you love about the South?
The South to me is about family, more than anything else. It’s where I grew up, it’s where my grandparents are from, and their parents. It’s a very restful place for me. I travel a lot, so I spend a lot of time in different cities and it’s comfortable here. That might just be familiarity, but I think there’s more to it than that. The pace of life, the geography of the region, and the natural landscape add to that a lot.
When you get home, what do you like to do in your hometown?
I try to write songs. I sleep a lot, and I shoot pool a lot. I’m not sure if that’s the best thing I should be doing with my time.
Have you fallen in love with any Southern towns on the road?
Some of the little towns that we drive through are really beautiful. Madison, GA — really, really beautiful. And a lot of those towns between Athens and Atlanta. I know that everybody always talks about Savannah and Charleston, and the coastal cities, but I like Macon and Augusta a whole lot. There’s a lot of great music there, a lot of great ole folks who do the same things they’ve always done.
Do you have any favorite road food stops?
Abe’s Diner in Corinth, MS. That place is incredible. There’s one basic stoplight in Corinth, and when you go through Abe’s is on the left. He closes early. The front is just a straight counter and he lives in the back. Everything’s really cheap and really good. That’s one that surprises me because it never gets mentioned. I think he should get some credit. Get breakfast if you get there really early. Otherwise you can get chili, patty melts — just diner kind of food — but it’s really good.
How do you take your biscuits?
Just butter for me, usually. My grandmother used to make—some people call it chocolate gravy—we always used to call it chocolate syrup. I haven’t found anybody that makes it the same since, so I can’t really eat it anymore. Usually for me, it’s just butter.
What inspires your music the most?
Songwriters and novelists. A lot of those folks are from the South. Some of my favorite people to listen to when I hit a rut are folks like James McMurtry or Joe Pug. Randy Newman is a really good songwriter. And then just reading. I burned through all the [Cormac] McCarthy novels recently, and those are really great. You get a lot of ideas from that. Some of the Mississippi folks: Barry Hannah, Larry Brown, a lot of the Oxford crew, I really get into those novels. More often than not though, I get inspired by overhearing something. I like writers that write in a way that’s not stilted. Just pay attention to other people’s conversations; I guess sometimes I’m eavesdropping. I write a lot of things on bar napkins just listening to two people next to me.
See More Biscuits & Jam Performances at SouthernLiving.com/jam