Local Countrified Roots Musician Jeremy Pinnell Is Playfully Upbeat in New Album 'Goodbye L.A.'

“I just wanted to make a record that made people happy,” Pinnell says.

Nov 10, 2021 at 1:41 pm
click to enlarge Jeremy Pinnell (center) and band - Photo: IVPR
Photo: IVPR
Jeremy Pinnell (center) and band

“Big Ol’ Good,” the first track on singer/songwriter Jeremy Pinnell’s latest record, Goodbye L.A., opens with Honky Tonk shine — a jaunty backbeat and tasty slide guitar set the scene before Pinnell’s signature soulful voice kicks in, cresting with the refrain, “I get by ’cause my baby found a good fishin’ hole/I get high on that Rock & Roll.” Pinnell elongates the notes on “hole” and “roll” with uncommon flair, the sound of a seemingly satisfied man eager to shake off whatever demons might have plagued him in the past.

And then there’s “Night Time Eagle,” an even jauntier tune that features a soaring solo from guitarist Junior Tutwiler and lyrics about the bittersweet joys of touring: “I hit the road with a four-piece band/Missing lines like I don’t give a damn/I don’t even know what day it is/But, honey, I just miss your kiss.”

You can almost picture the smile on Pinnell’s face as he sings. It’s a somewhat surprising shift in tone for those familiar with the Northern Kentucky native’s brand of countrified Roots music, almost all of which burns with brooding, melancholic intensity on 2015’s OH/KY and its follow-up, 2017’s Ties of Blood and Affection.

“It was kind of like I was so tired of hearing all these songwriters that were just so miserable,” says Pinnell — including himself on the list — by phone from his home on a recent Saturday morning. “People are just so fucking sad, and I was like, ‘I am over it, dude.’ Like, ‘Quit crying about the fucking girl who ran away.’ Who gives a shit? I just got tired of it.”

Of course, Goodbye L.A. wouldn’t be the same without one of Pinnell’s dark-hued journeys into self-reflection — the atmospheric, slow-burning “Red Roses” cracks with emotion as he sings, “The roses aren’t as red as they used to be/But they are in my memory.”

Yet most of the record is infused with an earnest playfulness, as the title track attests, a likely nod to Pinnell’s current homelife as a husband and father: “A man once said, I wish they were all were California girls/But he ain’t seen my woman with long hair and curls.” 

click to enlarge Jeremy Pinnell - Photo: IVPR
Photo: IVPR
Jeremy Pinnell

The chorus seals the deal: “Hello, L.A., you’ve got some pretty ladies/But they don’t want babies, and I do/Goodbye L.A., I’m going home to see my baby/She’s the one I belong to.”

“I just wanted to make a record that made people happy,” Pinnell says of Goodbye L.A.’s more upbeat nature. “Everybody’s been so miserable for so long. I just wanted people to be OK with themselves, have a good time, enjoy each other’s company, enjoy being with another human being. I really just wanted to make that record where people could just enjoy life.”

Everyday life and its trials and tribulations have long been Pinnell’s bread and butter as a songwriter.

“You got to talk about real stuff,” he says. “That’s the only way you’re going to connect with people. Some people are surface level, and that’s fine, because we need all types of people, but some people need to go deeper, you know? You can just be honest about what’s going on with your life and people identify with that.”

That was certainly the case with Pinnell’s breakthrough record, OH/KY. After more than a decade on the Cincinnati scene fronting stellar outfits like The Light Wires — whose 2004 self-titled album remains one of the best local efforts in recent memory — Pinnell’s solo debut, released via Northern Kentucky-based SofaBurn Records, drew praise far beyond the Tri-State area. Extensive touring across the U.S. followed, as did a previously unthinkable trip to Europe. 

The attention came as a surprise to a guy who just wanted to write and play songs with his revolving backing band, which has solidified in recent years with the addition of Tutwiler, a multi-instrumentalist who Pinnell calls his “musical director.”

“I guess I just didn’t expect anything from the record,” Pinnell says. “That’s kind of like the way this whole (music) thing has gone; I never expect anything. We did OH/KY, we released it the best we could, and people wrote about it and liked it. We were super-green, we were just learning how to play Country music, so it was a very new experience for us. So, to get some praise was good, but I feel like the real work didn’t really start until Tides of Blood and Affection.”

Pinnell recorded Goodbye L.A. at producer Jonathan Tyler’s Austin, Texas studio just before the pandemic hit. The down time was tough on him and his band, as the momentum they built from the previous two albums and their resultant tours ground to a halt. But it also put things in perspective. Pinnell had to get a day job again, which just reminded him how much he loved being a touring musician.

“We did like 130-something days on the road in 2019,” Pinnell says. “By the end of that year, I was whupped, just cooked mentally, spiritually and physically. But then the pandemic hit. I remember telling my wife before the pandemic that I didn’t want to be 45-years-old riding around in a van, and that’s all I want to do now.”

Pinnell is quick to point out how the local scene has impacted his evolution as a songwriter and artist, name-checking various venues and supporters like Shake It Records and former Light Wires’ bandmate Mike Montgomery.

Pinnell mentions the original Southgate House as an especially important influence back in the day.

“I remember being a kid and Ross (Raleigh, the late owner and operator of the Southgate House) would let us have Punk shows and Hardcore shows there during the day,” Pinnell says. “I remember us hanging out, playing baseball in the parking lot. Growing up in Cincinnati, I don’t know, it was just a good group of people to grow up with. I was always around musicians and artists. Just a different kind of people, you know? I think people from here are a little bit rougher, too, so that always helps.”

While he and his band are currently on their first tour in nearly two years, Pinnell is already thinking about the next record, which he says will likely be a more lo-fi effort following the relatively sleek accessibility of Goodbye L.A.

“I like pushing buttons,” Pinnell says about his approach as an artist. “I try to be slick about it, but I think that’s what makes good art — people who push buttons. That’s the way I was brought up. You grew up listening to artists who really messed with people. I think when you get people out of their comfort zone, even yourself out of your comfort zone, that’s when you create good music.”

Jeremy Pinnell plays the Campbell County Public Library Newport Branch on Nov. 19 and MOTR Pub on Nov. 20. For more info and show details, visit jeremypinnell.com.

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