“I want to sing my songs until my voice goes out, I want to take every day and live it loud,” are the first words out of Josh Abbott’s mouth on the band’s new album Until My Voice Goes Out – and he means every word of that sentence.
Until My Voice Goes Out is an eclectic album built from Abbott’s harrowing life experiences ranging from the birth of his daughter to the sudden and heartbreaking death of his father one month into the album-making process, all weaved together with striking strings and horns. So it makes total sense that Abbott describes the project as “rediscovering life.”
“Anytime you write an album, it’s going to be emotional,” Abbott tells Sounds Like Nashville. “I feel like this album really just encompasses life and the importance of it and how fragile it is and how to live it.”
The Texas-based group also make a statement with their new sound, calling on acclaimed producer Rob Mathes to compose all the album’s string sections, including the prelude and epilogue that open and close the album, a new venture for the band, who typically open a project with a fast-paced number. While some country acts have dabbled in the art of horns, Josh Abbott Band embraced them whole-heartedly, using them as a dominant theme throughout the entire album, with Abbott saying they “took a bold step in a new direction.” The prelude and epilogue work as soothing transitions between songs about life and its significance.
“That’s almost like an anomaly in today’s country music world,” Abbott says of adding strings and horns throughout an album. “I just hope everybody appreciates the fact that we didn’t play it safe, we didn’t make a normal sounding record.”
The title track is one Abbott is most proud of, referring to it as one of the best songs he’s written. “I think it stands for a lot of things that I want to be or accomplish in life,” he says, citing his desire to see the northern lights and become an all-around good person as accomplishments on his bucket list.
When Abbott tells the story of how the album came together, it would almost seem like it was an act of fate. Like on the song “I’m Your Only Flaw,” which Abbott wrote for his fiancée Taylor Parnell, not knowing she was pregnant at the time. One of her favorite lines comes in the second verse when Abbott sings “being brave while feeling small,” words that would ultimately translate into their daughter’s name, Emery Farryn, meaning “brave adventure.”
The song “Ain’t Your Daddy’s Town” is an example of fate intervening if there ever was one. Abbott’s father suddenly passed away from a stroke in March of 2017, and when his friends Jaren Johnston and Rodney Clawson initially pitched him the emotional song that tells the story of losing one’s father, he felt no personal connection to it at the time. “My reply was ‘maybe one day when my dad passes away, 10, 15, 20 years from now, if this song hasn’t been cut, I’ll look back and maybe it’ll be something we can cut,” Abbott explains.
That very same day was also when his father had a warning stroke, just weeks before he suffered a major one that would sadly claim his life. Fast-forward four months when the album was ready to be released, Abbott decided it would be incomplete without “Ain’t My Daddy’s Town” – but with one small change. Always one to ensure that he can relate to every song he sings, Abbott asked the writers if he could change a few lines in the song to make it more relatable to his own father, adding in imagery of his “old red work truck” and a note about how his father lovingly took his mom out on a Valentine’s Day date the same evening as his pre-stroke, giving her the last Valentine’s date the two would have together. “Is it cosmic, is it fate, is it universal, is it coincidence?” Abbott wonders. “I don’t know, but I feel like, through whatever way, the universe got me that song.” Since the news was so fresh at the time, Abbott didn’t think he’d be able to write a song about his loss right away, but that’s when fate stepped in and gave him the track.
“It really just changes the end of that album. When you listen to that song and then it’s followed up with that epilogue of ‘Farewell Father,’” Abbott says. “It’s literally my album goodbye to my dad and it’s heavy, it’s personal and I hope that people will see that and appreciate that.”
Josh Abbott Band’s Until My Voice Goes Out is available now.