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Interview: Midland’s Jess Carson on ‘The Last Resort: Greetings From’ and their return to the UK

We caught up with band member and songwriter Jess as the trio prepare for their Let’s Try This Again! Tour later this month.

It may be over three years since Midland have visited us here in the UK, but they’ve certainly been busy in the meantime.

Since they last played on this side of the pond back in December 2018, they’ve released three records – ‘Let It Roll’, ‘Live From The Palomino’ and ‘The Sonic Ranch’ (the latter accompanying their documentary film of the same name) – and an EP, ‘The Last Resort’. Now, at long last, they’re heading over here for their highly anticipated Let’s Try This Again! Tour, due to take place later this month after being postponed twice due to the pandemic, and supporting their third studio album, ‘The Last Resort: Greetings From’ which is out this week.

I recently caught up with band member Jess Carson to talk about the new record, what to expect from their live shows, their collaborations with Jon Pardi, Marty Stuart and HARDY, and plans for the rest of the year.

We last spoke in summer 2021. What have you and the band been up to since then?

Since the summer of 2021… there were still a lot of starts and stops with playing shows. We’d go through periods of time where we were able to play shows, and then other times we were having to go back to rescheduling and postponing shows. We did a lot of writing, we spent time with our families [laughs] when we weren’t on the road. Still just kind of logging some family time, since before 2020 we were just going so hard.

Your new album ‘The Last Resort: Greetings From’ comes out on Friday – what can you tell us about that?

‘The Last Resort: Greetings From’… I think goes to a new depth in songwriting, in storytelling. We got to really kind of drop out of warp speed and spend more time writing the songs, and creating these characters that came out great in the studio. We’re super excited to get it out. We go through a number of different kinds of feels and speeds but it all is very Midland and I think it’ll sound like an evolution without really being a departure from what people have come to know us for.

One thing that stands out about the record is the structure – it feels like there’s a very strong narrative here. Was that something you consciously wanted to do or did it evolve as you were working on the album?

Yes, the narrative in country music is so important. Country music, you know, is a storytelling genre. You know, you start by writing a lot of songs, and then you figure out how these puzzle pieces work together and how they can tell a story that doesn’t feel disjointed. And sometimes it feels like it is a story about one person. That wasn’t intentional in the writing process, but I guess it’s natural that there is this kind of alchemy that happens with the three of us and it happens with our co-writers that we’ve come to love working with and we keep going back to. So I guess it kind of would make sense that it some ways it can almost feel like a concept album.

Were there any songs on this record that were particularly easy or particularly challenging to write?

Well the biggest challenge with writing these songs was normalising writing over Zoom, which is such a different approach than being in a room and finding that energy, bouncing ideas off of people who are sitting right next to you versus being in your home with a computer screen. I think maybe the strange part is how well we took to it. I think there was kind of a learning curve with it where as we did it more and more, that started to feel normal, and we got great results from it. I don’t know if we will continue to use that method from here on out, but it worked for the time that we were doing it.

This album includes your first collaboration on one of your albums, with Jon Pardi on ‘Longneck Way To Go’. How was it working with him?

Jon Pardi is one of our favourite people, one of our favourite artists, and we do a similar thing. You know, we’re in the spectrum of country music right now, I would say Midland and Jon Pardi are sort of on the same plane in terms of our influences and what we’re trying to do and our love for classic country. He’s a guy that we met early on and became friends with and we hang out with, so it made a lot of sense for us to do a collaboration with him. It was more just trying to find the right kind of song to do with him, and I think ‘Longneck Way To Go’ is the perfect song to do with him. We’re super excited about it.

You also recently collaborated with Marty Stuart and HARDY on ‘Break Your Own Damn Heart’ [on HARDY’s Hixtape: Vol. 2 released last year]. How did that come about and what was that experience like?

We had been trying to set up a get together with HARDY to write for a while and we finally made that happen. It was one of the Zoom writes that we did, kind of in the middle of all the Covid stuff, and we got a great song with him that we love. And he tapped Marty Stuart to sing on it as well, which we were so excited to hear because we love Marty Stuart. You know, we listen to his records and him and his band are just some of the tightest and coolest musicians out there. If you ever get a chance to go see him and his band, do it. But yeah, that was fun and hope to do much more with both of them in the future.

You’re finally coming back to the UK for the Let’s Try This Again! Tour later this month as well. What can audiences expect from that?

People in the UK can expect our usual high energy honky-tonk show. We have oiled up the machine, we’ve gotten to play shows over here in the States. The band is firing on all cylinders and the UK is one of our favourite places to play on the planet. We can’t wait to finally get back over there.

How do you feel your live show has changed in the three years since you’ve been to the UK?

Well, hopefully it’s gotten better! [laughs] We have clocked a few thousand hours on stage under our belts since the last time we were in the UK. We’ve got to grow the show, grow the whole stage look, the lighting and the sound, and develop a set that has dynamics in it and write pieces of music that are just for the live show. We’ve always felt that that’s really where the music comes to life, for lack of a better descriptor, is in the concert.

Are there any songs you’re particularly looking forward to playing live from the new record whilst you’re here?

Well the first two songs that we put into the set were ‘Longneck Way To Go’ and ‘The Last Resort’. Those are two particular fun ones to play. ‘The Last Resort’ because it has that Gulf and western, kind of Jimmy Buffett kind of thing. He’s been a long influence on Midland as well. And ‘Longneck Way To Go’ because it’s just a straight down the middle Midland song. That’s our sweet spot. Those are the type of songs that when we sit down to write just kind of come the most naturally.

What does the rest of 2022 look like for you? Will touring and the album be the main focus?

The rest of 2022… touring, you know, playing catch up, getting around the world and playing all these places that we didn’t get to play in the last few years. Releasing the music, promoting that, doing TV stuff. It’s back to business as usual. We definitely have the pedal down, you know, and excited to get back out there now that things are kind of returning to normal.

Midland’s new album, ‘The Last Resort: Greetings From’, is out on Friday 6th May 2022 on Big Machine Records.

See Midland on the Let’s Try This Again! Tour in the UK later this month:

Friday 20th May – Kingston Upon Thames, St John The Evangelist Church
Saturday 21st May – London, Roundhouse
Sunday 22nd May – Birmingham, O2 Institute
Tuesday 24th May – Belfast, Ulster Hall
Wednesday 25th May – Glasgow, O2 Academy
Thursday 26th May – Sheffield, O2 Academy
Friday 27th May – Manchester, O2 Ritz

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