Bad music is more than just a matter of taste for Jason Isbell. It’s a means to, or more precisely a hindrance to, understanding other peoples’ experiences of the world. So the Grammy winner says in his new conversation with Sam Jones in the latest episode of the online Off Camera interview series.
Jones brings up the idea of empathetic songwriting and its importance in the context of the pop format, which leads Isbell to argue for the moral significance of “good” music. “I do think there’s some kind of art that makes you a better person, whether you’re consuming it or trying to create it. I think it helps you build a better understanding of what other people are like – really inside there, what they’re like,” Isbell says. “It reminds you of your similarities rather than your differences. And I think bad art reminds you so much of your differences.”
Now in its ninth season, Off Camera pairs Jones, a photographer and videographer, with artists, actors and musicians for long-form conversations about their work. This season’s episodes have featured appearance from rapper Common to actor John Goodman. Besides his wide-ranging talk with Jones, Isbell also takes the opportunity to perform “If We Were Vampires” on the host’s old Martin guitar. “It’s small, so I’m gonna look huge,” Isbell jokes as he admires the guitar before setting into the song.
Isbell is continuing to tour behind his acclaimed 2017 LP with his band the 400 Unit, The Nashville Sound, which, along with “If We Were Vampires,” earned him a pair of awards at this year’s Grammys.