“Wanna Do Something,” the first single from Pinnell's forthcoming third full-length LP Goodbye L.A. (out Oct. 1), is breezy yet determined to break out of the funk — like looking at the clouds for so long that you start to envy their formless freedom.
This weekend, North Texas will be treated to not just one but two performances by Jeremy Pinnell: a solo engagement in Fort Worth at Magnolia Motor Lounge on Friday, Aug. 27; and a set at the Kessler Theater in Dallas on Saturday, Aug. 28 opening for the man who helped Goodbye L.A. come to life, Dallas’ very own Jonathan Tyler.
Tyler’s own music is a wellspring of intangible Western mystique, and having him behind the boards in the producer’s chair for the album seemed like a natural fit. Pinnell was an admirer of Tyler’s music —particularly of the album he produced for Nikki Lane, Highway Queen.
“There are sounds on that record that made me wonder ‘How do you know to put things here and there?’” Pinnell says. “So, I reached out to my friend Scottie Diablo and said, ‘I wonder if Jonathan would produce this record?’ and he said, ‘Why don’t you ask him?’”
After a year of talking, Pinnell and Tyler cut a few demos that eventually led to the creation of Goodbye L.A.
“Jonathan is such a worker.” Pinnell says. “He doesn’t take breaks unless he’s totally fried. In the studio we worked and worked and worked. The band and I are all workers, too, so it was like the perfect thing … The vibe was so positive, and he is so good about encouraging people to try things and just draw it all out of you. Like, you want to be around that dude! He’s good people.”
Tyler says that Pinnell’s confidence in his material made recording the album an especially pleasurable experience.
“It’s kind of like a conversation,” Tyler says. “Good conversationalists know when to listen, know when to interject, and it’s the same when you’re recording. It’s like volleyball — you’re passing the ball from one person to the next and everybody has their roles. Jeremy and the band came in and sometimes they knew the material, so I didn’t mess with it, and sometimes other songs hadn’t been fleshed out yet, so it was fun to flesh them out. It was 50/50.”
Goodbye L.A. was completed in March of 2020, just barely missing the onset of the pandemic.
“We recorded the music for the record, I was home for four days, then flew back to Austin to record the vocals for three days, then went home that Saturday, and that Monday is when the country shut down and they asked everybody to stay home,” Pinnell says.
While stuck at home unable to tour or make music with his band, he recorded a tune that, little did he know, would help bring him national attention. A black-and-white video of Pinnell performing a sparse, solo acoustic take on Concrete Blonde’s 1990 hit “Joey” racked up thousands of views on Instagram and more than 10,000 streams on Spotify. It made its way into the ear of Rolling Stone, which described it as “a country dirge mournful enough to make Townes Van Zandt cry.”
“I grew up in church, my dad sang in church. Everything about music attracted me to it." –Jeremy Pinnell
Listening to the singles from Goodbye L.A., “Joey,” or either of Pinnell’s first two records, there's a sense that music is an indelible part of his life, no matter in what form it may come.
“I grew up in church, my dad sang in church. Everything about music attracted me to it," Pinnell says. "I remember the first time I saw that video for Guns N’ Roses’ 'Welcome to the Jungle' and I thought “Oh wow! You know?” He says with a laugh. “I love that record.”
Pinnell’s love for rock ‘n’ roll and other styles of music directly informs his laid-back brand of country music in its attitude, not just its sound. His ability to rock is on full display on “Night Time Eagle,” the second single released from Goodbye L.A., but he’s no country iconoclast, either. His manifesto is laid out on “The Way Country Sounds,” the opening track of his debut album Oh/Ky (pronounced “Ohio/Kentucky”): “It sounds like this, it sounds like that, it sounds like the weight of the world on your back, it sounds like heaven when you feel a lil' down, you live the life I lived, you would know the way country sounds.”
It’s a combination of blue-sky optimism and road-weary melancholy that has fueled the greatest country music ever made, from Hank to Kacey to Willie and back.