Interview: Jonny Fritz

SP582-qu.jpgNashville’s atmosphere shifted about a year ago, and I couldn’t really put a finger on why it felt just a little off—but then I realized that Nashville-based purveyor of “dad country”, Jonny Fritz, has been in Los Angeles for the last year. That explains it.

Musician, leathersmith, nude model—don’t worry, we’ll come back to this—Fritz is a force, and is a jack, or Jonny, rather, of all trades. “It’s a tough world out there!” Fritz exclaims. “You’ve got to hustle or you won’t make it! Just making music doesn’t always cut it, it’s too easy to download shit for free these days. If I don’t make belts and dog collars, I drown.”

At this point, you might be referring to the beginning of this post, and asking, “What exactly is ‘dad country’?” “It’s my genre,” he says. “A few years ago, I was touring a lot on a motorcycle, and I had to trade it in for a van—it was a really good move, but kind of an embarrassing let-down. I’d get to a town, and people would ask ‘Did you come on your motorcycle?’ and I’d say, ‘No, I came in the minivan.’ Then, I hurt my hip when I was running a while back, and I couldn’t wear cowboy boots anymore, I had to wear running shoes all the time. I was playing shows in running shoes, it was such a bummer. People would ask, ‘Where are your boots?’ and I’d be like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t wear those anymore.’ People would try to call me an outlaw, and would say, ‘You want to get drunk? and I’d say, ‘No, can I just get a nice cup of tea and go for a walk? I don’t really want to sit in a bar.’ That’s dad country.”

These days, dad country has a new sheen, and it’s called “sweet creep”, which also happens to be the name of Fritz’ delicious new album out on October 14th via ATO Records. “With the new record, I kept writing songs that seemed to elicit the same responses; people would say, ‘Man, that’s really sweet’ or ‘Wow, that’s kind of creepy’. I made tooled leather wallets with a woman swimming on them, I thought they were sweet, but people told me it was creepy,” Fritz says with an audible shrug. “Every couple of years I guess I have a new theme I just roll with, and ‘sweet creep’ is like this time’s trending hashtag. Sweet Creep is like the theme of my whole life right now, everything I write about and everything I notice seem to be equal parts tender and creepy.”

For example, the new album features song “Stadium Inn”, about Nashville’s favorite sketchy hotel on the outskirts of downtown. “I used to go there all the time when they had wrestling in the lobby—amateur wrestling matches for $3 a ticket, it was hilarious!” he exclaims. “In the last couple of years, I’ve noticed that during rush hour, you get stuck there on freeway in front of the Stadium Inn, and you can look straight into the windows and see all that goes on in there. It’s like 10 or 20 insane movie scenes playing out in the rooms, and it probably happens 100 times a day.” Still don’t follow? Look no further than “My Humidifier”—“I want to bottle up your scent and put a little bit in my humidifier”…you get the drift.

Sweet Creep was brought to life by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James and Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith. “Jim’s the godfather of this record. Jim and Taylor are everything to this record. Jim is incredible; he was in the midst of making an album, Taylor was busy with Dawes making We’re All Gonna Die, and there just wasn’t a lot of time,” Fritz recalls.  “Jim had some nice equipment, but no studio, so he suggested recording outside, on the front porch of where he was staying in Los Angeles. It turned into a really fun, lighthearted experience that brought the vibe to the entire project. It made me lighten up, I wasn’t nervous or stressed, we just had fun.”

Now, Fritz is on tour with Jamestown Revival, he’s got a new hip, and he’s ready to roll. “I got a hip replacement the year,” he says. “I’d spent the last four years limping around, trying to figure out how to get it fixed. It was going to be a $70,000 surgery; I even had insurance which covered most of it, but not all. My fans paid for my surgery though crowdfunding!” How did he celebrate? “I wanted to take some fancy pictures of myself to show off my scar and say thanks,” he recalls of the deck of playing cards bearing the photo of Fritz in his birthday suit. “I was like ‘How Come girls are the only ones who get to pose for nudie cards? I want to be on some nudie cards.”

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Tour Dates with Jamestown Revival:

10/17 – Indianapolis, IN – The Hi-Fi

10/18 – St. Louis, MO – Old Rock House

10/19 – Madison, WI – High Noon Saloon

10/20 – St. Paul, MN – Turf Club

10/22 – Chicago, IL – Park West

10/24 – New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom

10/26 – Washington, DC – U Street Music Hall

10/27 – Philadelphia, PA – World Café Live

10/28 – Providence, RI – Fete Lounge

10/29 – Boston, MA – Royale

10/30 – Portland, ME – Port City Music Hall

11/1 – Nashville, TN – Exit/In

11/3 – Dallas, TX – Kessler Theater

11/4 – Austin, TX – Emo’s

11/5 – Houston, TX – White Oak Music Hall

11/10 – Los Angeles, CA – El Rey Theatre

Susan Hubbard

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