The record is doing pretty well, and has received a lot of critical praise. Is that surprising?
Yeah, I kind of wonder, is someone paying somebody off? You know Jay and Jeff have always received critical support, and so when they separated, you had to wonder what would happen. And with this record I'd be lying if I said I wasn't concerned about releasing a double CD. But you know it really isn't all that much longer than a single. I was a little worried people would find it pompous and say, "Why couldn't you cut 3 or 4 songs?"But I've never bought that argument. The point is, it's a supposed to be a double CD, kind of like a cousin to those great double albums we grew up with.
Max Johnston, your fiddle and dobro player, recently left the band. What happened?
Max left about a month before this new tour. We were just opting for something different sonically. The new songs are really keyboard dominated, Jay Bennett plays a lot more keyboards, and Jeff plays more guitar. And the sound as a whole is much louder. We needed a really fat instrument, a really fat sound, as opposed to a stringed instrument. So Bob Egan, who also plays in Freakwater, is playing pedal steel. He really gets into a nice, low register, though he can do the high, weepy country sound as well. But by no means does this mean the end of our work with Max.
And you've also started a side project, Courtesy Move, with Johnston, Bennett and Egan. What might the future hold for that group?
Courtesy Move is a good outlet for us to play together. We all live in separate cities and there's a lot of down time - over the last few years we've averaged about 10 months off. The other thing is, with "Being There," we were in a quandary about who could get a song on. Jeff's become so prolific, and I'm writing and so is Jay. In the end we felt we needed a little separation in the different songwriting. We are trying to get a release out, but we're gonna wait, so as not to conflict with "Being There." We'll be mixing about 16 tracks soon, and maybe by the spring we'll have an e.p. out.