Waylon Thornton – ‘Pale Jewel’ & Interview
The last time we spoke you were working on a short story about a woman who hooks it at a Burger King, huffs glue, and watches TV. Did you finish it?
You’re talking about “Glue Baby”. It’s not finished yet, I got sidetracked with this album and kind of fell out of the inspiration mode for that, but I plan on picking it back up. I actually started writing it as a treatment for a silent short film, but just got totally caught up in the story and kept writing. It’s become more about her kid and his experiences in the trailer park they live in, the things he sees there and the people he meets. It’s pretty filthy, but the last time I was working on it I was trying to give it an undertone of “coming of age,” as cheesy as that may be.
I think the line in the story so far that best represents it is: “Who’s got time to worry about a condom when your head’s swimming in solvent and the fries are getting cold?”
I noticed that your new record (‘Pale Jewel‘) incorporates vocals. Wasn’t it originally supposed to be an instrumental-only release?
Yeah, it totally was planned to be an instrumental album. I have three or four tracks that were recorded for that, and I think they’re really beautiful, but I start writing the batch of songs that made it to the album and decided they were flowing better, so I just went with it. I’m sure eventually that album will happen, but I currently have fifteen or so songs that are fully written, so my hands are full with recording and arranging at the moment, which is kind of rare. Usually I write as I record, just banging things out, but ‘Pale Jewel’ and its follow-up are more fully realized than my previous releases. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or bad thing. Honestly it makes me kind of nervous because I don’t want to over think the songs, since I, more than anything, want everything to have an heir of spontaneity. It is very nice to concentrate and polish songs up a bit, though. I’m sure once this is all done I’ll set up a tape recorder in the living room and make some god awful rock n’ roll record in an hour.
What does ‘Pale Jewel‘ mean, in regards to this release?
Well, ‘Pale Jewel’ is referencing my wife, Meg. She’s as pale as the moon and I love her endlessly, so I wanted to name the album in her honor. The previous solo album was called ‘Proud Seed’ and that was in relation to my son, Dex. Aside from the meaning of the title, I think it just really fits with that batch of songs. I can’t really explain that, I just think the album art, title, everything melds together really well to create one succinct piece. I’m all about that. On the other hand, though, I think that any of those songs could stand alone, and I’m proud of that.
With so many singles, EP’s, and LP’s under your belt, what keeps you motivated and inspired? What inspired ‘Pale Jewel’?
I don’t even know that I can call it “motivation” as much as just sudden bursts of inspiration. I write and work very sporadically and there’s rarely any rhyme or reason to it. There are times when I’ll go months without writing a single thing, and that has a lot to do with some anxiety and depression junk I deal with every now and then. I’m not loony by any means, but I go through “slumps” where I just cannot create because I feel so shitty. Those are the times when I read a lot, listen to new music, and spend a lot of time in nature because when I’m not creating, it gives me a chance to enjoy the other creations around me, and that usually helps kick start me back into a better place. On ‘Pale Jewel’ I was fresh out of a slump and all of those songs just poured out, and I think they reflect all of the nature, literature, and general life I was absorbing during my down time.
This album, more than your previous works, feels heavily influenced by pop music. Are you meaning to lean in that direction?
I’ve always loved “pop” music. In the 90′s, radio pop wasn’t too bad, things like Third Eye Blind, The Cranberries, Fountains Of Wayne, and Gin Blossoms. I could go on and on. I grew up listening to that stuff in the car on the way to school and it’s always resonated with me. People talk shit about those bands, but seriously, go back and listen. It’s good. Especially Gin Blossoms’ ‘New Miserable Experience‘. Geeeeez what an album.
I spend more time listening to pop oriented music than I do “punk” or “hardcore” or anything like that. I love classics like Big Star, Tom Petty, and Guided By Voices. I’ve opened up more and just started writing from a more honest and sincere place, and the influence of those more melodic acts is shining through. That doesn’t mean I won’t do more instrumental records or heavier things. I try to be an artist as opposed to a “rock” or “punk” musician.
I do what I want.
I love the album art for ‘Pale Jewel’—did you make it?
That’s actually a picture of Meg in a pool that I took a few years ago with a cheapo 35mm underwater camera. I soaked the film in bleach before I used it and got some really cool shots. The cover of ‘Rat Brew‘ is from the same roll. I love playing around with film photography, buying cheap film and soaking it in bleach or toilet bowl cleaner to see what the result looks like. Sometimes it’s awesome like the ‘Pale Jewel’ cover and other times it just looks like garbage. I like using film photos for my album art because I think it fits the aesthetic of my music pretty well.
I’ve already started work on the ‘Pale Jewel’ follow-up, which has no name at the moment. It’s about twelve songs, but that could be cut down or expanded. These new songs are very pop oriented, to call back to your earlier question. I’m working to improve my recording quality, as well, so it’s an experiment. Some of the songs for that album also have a country lean to them. I’m interested to see how we’re able to make these newer songs work in a live setting with Waylon Thornton and the Heavy Hands. So many of the songs we play live are pretty hard hitting and wild, whereas the new songs are more tight and melodic. I don’t want people expecting one thing to be disappointed when they get another, but ultimately I don’t care.
We’re planning to write and record a new WTHH album, and I have no idea how that will sound. Probably the opposite of these pop songs I’ve been writing. Meg is pretty much on 100% all of the time when she’s drumming, so there is no slowing down when we start playing. She’s honestly like a jackhammer with drumsticks. So, like I said before, it’ll be interesting to see how we’re able to mix all of these songs into a live set. That’s very important to me, not being just a studio project and actually getting out and making it work. Anyone can make cool records if they try hard enough, but it takes a lot of work and understanding between the band members to really pull it off live.
Aside from the music junk, my summer plans include being a dad, swimming a lot, eating some burgers, and today I’ll probably mow the yard. You know, general rock n’ roll stuff.
Stream/download Pale Jewel below:
And lastly, here’s what Lake Butler, Florida looks like through the eyes of Waylon himself:
This was taken last year at the Chastain-Seay park near my house. It’s on the Santa Fe River, and it’s awesome. I go there a few times a week to jog/hike and take the little guy to splash around in the river. There’s a really cool/scary rope swing that we use when the water is high enough. Right now the spot where my kid is standing in this picture is submerged by about 10 feet of water since we’re being ravaged by a tropical storm.
I love this house. It’s maybe a quarter mile down the road from our place and I always pass it when I’m out for a walk. I’m a sucker for dilapidated old buildings and houses.
The town I live in is called Lake Butler, and here’s the name sake: Butler Lake. I spent many a lonely night sitting on that dock in high school, playing guitar and smoking a Black & Mild. I wasn’t able to get a picture of it, but there’s a park set up and a cool little turn around everyone calls “The Loop”. The only thing to do in Lake Butler on a Friday night if you’re a teenager is to shoot the loop and get chased out of the park by whatever cop is stuck working that night. I actually have a song on ‘Proud Seed’ called “Shoot The Loop”. There’s also an amazing restaurant called Butler Seafood House & Grille, where you can get homemade anything, but majority of Lake Butler is “too good” to eat there. I guess they’d rather go to Hardee’s and get the shits.
My backyard. My house. Probably my favorite place to be. We put in this fire pit not long after we bought the place. Why would you ever want to leave your home when you can have s’mores at anytime?
Once again, my house. This is the front yard, on a day when my wife and son were playing around with a bubble machine.
I grew up in a small Baptist church called New River Baptist and as far as I know it’s the oldest Baptist church in Florida. A lot of good and bad memories from this place. We still go on the occasional Sunday to give my Grandma company on her pew. There’s only about 20 people left in the entire congregation. I learned a lot of what I know about music from this place, whether it was Glenda picking out “Doxology” (my favorite hymn) during the offering or my daddy doing a few songs on his guitar on a Sunday Night Sing, it’s all sticking with me.
This place baffles me. I’m not exactly sure how it’s still standing, but it’s forever hanging in there. It’s not far down from where we live, but from what I know it’s an old one room school house that a local church now owns and was using for a storage building before it went all wonky. I took some pictures in here when I was in high school and it’s like standing in the Twilight Zone because everything is sideways.
I love this sign, but it breaks my heart to tell you that it’s now gone. I drove by the gas station the other day and they’d torn it down and done God-knows-what with it. Such a shame, because it was a beautiful hunk of plastic. We’ve got more gas stations than cars in Lake Butler and I’ll never understand why, but this one always stands out because it’s painted up bright red. There’s also a Hungry Howie’s next door if you’re craving some “flavored crust”.