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The Long Way Around - Feature from Issue #6 Nov-Dec 1996

Vic Chesnutt

Gravity In BulkEccentric Southern songwriters Vic Chesnutt and Jack Logan are the Jimmy Webb and Burt Bacharach of their generation

Vic: Yeah, that’s a problem. But I just took two strings off my guitar, and tuned it like a mandolin. It’s cool. I was thinking, “I want to show this to Jack.” It’s only four strings, so it doesn’t play minors or majors, because it’s not a whole chord. It’s only two notes, but it’s cool.

Jack: I’ve been writing a bunch lately, just because I have to.

Vic: You’ve got a new record to do, don’t you?

Jack: Yeah. We’ll be recording soon, behind Fellini’s (a pizza place in Atlanta). Are you gonna be in town? We’ll probably start…

Vic: Y’all got unlimited time out there?

Jack: Yeaah! I’m gonna try to demo as much as I possibly can.

Vic: Are you going to get all the boys in there?

Jack: Yeah, it’ll pretty much be the [Liquor] Cabinet. If you’re around, come along. Let’s do something.

Vic: I’d love to.

ND: Here’s Vic’s new CD, which I can’t give to you.

Jack: Is that the new one?

Vic: That’s an early one. That’s not it.

ND: It’s the songs.

Jack: What’s [gonna be] on the cover?

Vic: A photograph of me, of course.

Jack (looking at the track listing): “Myrtle.” The beach, or a woman?

Vic: The bush.

Jack: “See You Around”? Awesome!

Vic: I hate that song. That’s a really old one.

Jack: He played that with the La-Di-Da’s.

Vic: Every gig we ever played, that was the last song. I fucking hate that song.

ND: Why’d you put it on the CD?

Vic: I don’t know.

Jack: Because it’s a good song.

Vic: Well, Tina liked it. But it’s so old, it’s sort of embarrassing.

Jack: It stands up well. But I know how you feel.

ND: All those songs that ended up on Bulk — it seems like you put a lot of effort into getting them right, even though presumably you didn’t expect anything to come of it.

Jack: Oh, yeah. We wanted them to be good. But why would I have [expected anything]? Nobody had ever heard them, except for a small group of friends. (to Vic) You probably didn’t expect to make records, did you?

Vic: I didn’t. I didn’t care. I kind of thought about it, but…

Jack: It seemed so far away, not too long ago. It just seemed impossible.

Vic: Yeah, it was ugly.

Jack: When we were first playing, Vic had his band, the La-Di-Da’s, and I had Lava Treatment. We did shows together, but we were, like, the bottom rung. We were the bands they’d call Tuesday, for a Wednesday night gig. It was like, “These guys dropped out; do you guys want to play?”

Vic: But we did record back then.

Jack: Oh, yeah, always. I’ve got some real old stuff of yours, stuff we did on a boom box.

Vic: See, Logan was my hero.

ND: Do you think there’s a particular “Athens” sound?

Jack: Well, the thing is, in Athens you can do whatever you want. But I think Athens is like anywhere else. Right now, there’s a bunch of country bands, or Flying Burrito Brothers-type bands.

Vic: Yeah, there’s a lot of country shit going on here.

Jack: And there was none of that five or six years ago. There was a lot of Steve Albini-sounding…

ND: So you don’t think there’s an Athens sound, at all?

Vic: No.

Jack: R.E.M., they’re the ones who first brought attention to the Byrds-sounding thing, or something.

Vic: Dinga-dinga-dinga-dinga. Nobody does that; not even them. They don’t do that shit anymore.

ND: Do people ever make comments about you and Michael sounding alike, vocally?

Vic: Oh, fuck, yeah! Of course they do!

Jack: I don’t see that. I think you sound like Ray Charles.

Vic: In my wettest dreams.

Jack: It’s that kind of confidence in the words, or something. He’s not afraid to be a little jazzy, but he still keeps the main melody, where you can hum it. Your phrasing, I think, is what’s totally unique. And your enunciation.

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Originally Featured in Issue #6 Nov-Dec 1996

Cover of Issue #6 Nov-Dec 1996

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