Billy Bob Thornton on Media Lies, Musical Truths and New Boxmasters Album
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Billy Bob Thornton is offering a bit of advice: always lie. Seated on a couch in Nashville’s historic RCA Studio A with his fellow Boxmasters — the rock-rockabilly-country group he formed in 2007 — Thornton is opening up about one of the key songs on the band’s new double album, Somewhere Down the Road. A slice of moody singer-songwriter Americana, “Always Lie” is the Boxmasters’ response to today’s “gotcha!” media.
“The song is written about the press. But not the old style press. We now have to deal with bloggers and TMZ,” Thornton tells Rolling Stone Country. “What it’s really about is how righteous journalists get screwed out of a good interview these days because of those people. . . A great interview is when you tell the truth. But now nobody wants to tell the truth because it will bite you in the ass.”
And Thornton, who was a musician and roadie well before he became a movie and TV star (this year, he won a Golden Globe for Best Actor for his role in FX’s black comedy Fargo), knows a thing or two about false impressions. Despite fronting the Boxmasters for almost a decade and releasing his debut solo album, Private Radio, in 2001, his musical intentions are still subject to scrutiny. But Somewhere Down the Road could once and for all dispel any talk of moonlighting. Says Thornton: “All we want is a fair shake.”
An ambitious two-disc set, Somewhere Down the Road, released earlier this month, is cleanly divided between the Byrds/Big Star jangle-pop of Disc One and the introspective country-Americana of Disc Two, all of it brought to life by ace players. Thornton’s right-hand man and guitarist J.D. Andrew, keyboardist Teddy Andreadis — who toured with Guns N’ Roses during their infamous Use Your Illusion Tour — and guitarist Brad Davis make up the core of the Boxmasters, with an additional bassist and drummer joining them on the road. During a recent two-night stand at the Franklin Theatre just south of Nashville, the group shifted seamlessly between Nuggets-type garage rock and country-inflected ballads, with Thornton prefacing the songs with alternatingly poignant and outrageous stories.
The best — about the innuendo-laced standout track “Kathy Won’t Share” — was one he first told Rolling Stone Country earlier that afternoon. Thornton wrote the song about a guy he knew growing up in Arkansas, who just couldn’t understand why his wife refused to agree to a ménage a trois. Eventually, he wanted a divorce and came to Thornton with an indecent proposal.
“His family was big in the Baptist church and the only way he could get a divorce is if she cheated on him. So he asked me, cause she always liked me, to go over there and have sex with her at their house, and let him catch us. He was going to pay me $100,” Thornton recounts, as the Boxmasters break into fits of laughter.