One of the most unusual songs is Reynolds' "Jar of Clay." Don't expect to hear it on radio any time soon. The song deals with death and how Reynolds wants to be buried. ("make my coffin straight and long/of wood that rots and nails that rust/Oh and when my spirit's gone/let this jar of clay return to dust.")
The song developed from a conversation Reynolds had with his parents. "We had a morbid little discussion one day about death and dying," he says. "I was saying that when I die, I didn't want to be seated in a casket or put in a vault and buried in a pine box that would meet with the ground. That conversation was rolling around in my head."
Reynolds wrote the song while driving to a bluegrass gig in Bloomington, Ind.
"It was very much written as a bluegrass tune," he says. "Bluegrass music has never been afraid to touch on the weightier subjects in life."
Dolly Parton lends her voice to "Falling Out of Love With Me," which she wrote about 25 years ago.
Just how that wound up on the disc was a stroke of kismet three years ago.
"I've always been a Dolly Parton fan," says Reynolds, who grew up in Natural Bridge, Va. "I've got a bunch of her old albums, of hers and Porter Wagoner. I got to thinking one night. Dolly's such an incredible songwriter and a very overlooked songwriter. I thought we should start looking at some of her stuff (to record) because there might be something in there we could do. I started looking through old albums and listening to old songs. I actually pulled out that song and listened to it and thought what a great song that is."
"I didn't actually consider that for us," he says. "I didn't consider that the Pinmonkey song we were looking for. I never really did find any song that I thought would work for us."
"Three days later, I was talking with Chad. He grabbed a guitar."
What song does Jeffers play? "Falling Out of Love With Me," of course.
"The minute he started playing it and hearing him singing it and done acoustically, I thought, 'of course, that's it'," Reynolds says. "I don't know why I hadn't heard that. So, there again, we went and worked it up and put Pinmonkey grease to it as we like to say."
But that didn't mean the song would end up on the album. The group was in their final meeting with the artists and repertoire staff (the folks who sign bands) at RCA and label head Joe Galante going over the final four songs the band would record.
The label execs wanted a ballad, but Pinmonkey questioned the need. "They were saying, 'ballads are good. Ballads sell records'," says Reynolds. "We had listened to way too many ballads that were way too sappy. I think we were starting to piss A&R off because we kept refusing...We said we were doing this Dolly Parton song in our set for three years, and it works live. We had a demo and put it on and Joe Galante says, 'What's wrong with that?' We were very happy. We loved that song. We thought, 'Great. Yes. We'll do this song in a minute.' And Joe said, 'why don't we call Dolly?"
Galante knew her from Parton's prior stint on RCA, and she soon lent backing vocals.
Reynolds grew up surrounded by bluegrass pickers in the family though his bent was country. "I can't say that I paid that much attention to the bluegrass, but it was always there. Of course, when I got to Nashville, (many) people said they loved the bluegrass twang in my voice. I realized that bluegrass had a lot more influence than I ever realized."
Reynolds grew up singing in church and at talent shows. After high school, he went to Nashville. "I look back in amazement where I moved to a strange city where I didn't know anybody," Reynolds says. "Literally, ignorance is the only thing that got me through that time. I didn't know what I was going to do."
Reynolds worked jobs including the mail room at Capitol Records and at a Cat's record store.
He was green though about the music business. A woman who worked at Cat's took him around to writer's nights at clubs to show his wares.
"I was out there pursuing the solo deal," he says. "I was doing country. Just at one point, I thought, for once, I want to do some music for the sheer joy of doing music without concern of whether it will get me a publishing deal, a record deal, whether it's going to launch my career. That's when I met up with Chad and his brother Michael."
The three met about six years ago through a mutual friend. Reynolds had enough of the solo gig. "It really unnerved me (being) on stage by myself."
First, Chad and Reynolds played together, much as many others did in Music City. But no record deal was in sight.
Reynolds thought they needed a bass player, which led to Michael Jeffers joining. "I had it in my had (about) adding a standup bass. He mentioned his brother plays electronic. I said, 'okay, let's call him.' It kind of clicked. If we had an electric bass, we had to have drums. I knew Rick through an entertainment attorney I was working with."