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Shiflett learns "Hard Lessons"

By Brian Baker, July 2019

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Shiflett learned enough about Cobb's methodology in the studio with his first album that he came to Nashville for his sophomore solo album completely ready. Which is to say, barely ready at all.

"I went in so much less prepared this time, on purpose," says Shiflett. "I had learned that the way Cobb makes records is he doesn't want to listen to your demo. He wants to hear you play it in the room right then and there, make some tweaks, work up an arrangement and then track it. For 'West Coast Town,' I made a couple rounds of demos, and that's not really to your advantage when you make records this way. It's learning to be flexible and go in there with an open mind and not be so rigid about your ideas."

There doesn't seem to be much in the way of rigidity in Shiflett's creative head space. He's the lead guitarist for one of rock's most critically and commercially successful groups of the last quarter century, and his country/Americana output on his own is authentically influenced and translated. Years ago, when Shiflett wanted to expand his country horizons, he asked bassist Kevin Smith, longtime band member of Willie Nelson's Family, what he should be listening to.

"He told me, 'Go get the Buck Owens box set, the Merle Haggard box set, any Wynn Stewart you can get your hands on, and Ray Price's 'Night Life.' I got them all, and there was no turning back. Guys like Buck and Wynn, they recorded so much music, you could spend a lifetime exploring their catalogs," says Shiflett.

"I've always loved old rockabilly and rock and roll and Elvis, Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran. But if you think about real early Beatles and Stones, they had a lot of basically rockabilly and country influence. And the era when Keith (Richards) was hanging out with Gram Parsons, that was a huge influence on me. It really took off for me when I got into Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt and Wilco and Whiskeytown, and Steve Earle, of course. That was really my jumping off point."

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