It’s a warm day in mid-August, 2018. A complex soup simmers, not in a kitchen, but on a couch in Belleville, Illinois. The chef is Old Salt Union singer and bassist Jesse Farrar. Tomorrow, Old Salt Union drives to northern Michigan to begin another tour. Even so, today isn’t one for vacation.
Today, Farrar is seasoning the material which will be the band’s first release of all-new material since 2016. “It’s been a while since we put out something with new music,” he says. “A lot of stuff on this particular record has been stewing around for a while. We’ve had ideas for these songs for a few years.”
Old Salt Union released its label debut, a self-titled record in 2017, with Compass Records out of Nashville. It featured 10 re-arranged and re-mastered songs from its existing catalog—plus a cover of Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” (video below).
The band’s live show has captivated audiences across the country, blending roots and string tones with rock and roll energy into compelling compositions. “We like to have fun on stage, but our goal is to write some complex music,” Farrar says. “We take songwriting pretty seriously.”
He says the next album is about 75-percent complete. Inspiration for the remainder could come from anywhere. “We’re open to every avenue,” Farrar says. “If we’re listening to a Phish record or a Tupac record, there’s inspiration that can be found and we’re not scared to chase it. A lot of our stuff is becoming more road based because that’s where we are 90-percent of the time.”
The band finds instrumental inspiration on the bus, where Farrar says everybody’s pickin’ in the back on the way to the next stop. Each of the five members working to improve. “We all try to grow individually as musicians outside of the band,” he says. “The goal is to never become stagnant on our instruments, and it can’t get stagnant bringing new ideas every night.”
The passion for music has always been present for Jesse. As a child, he says he was given the blueprint by his uncle Jay Farrar, frontman of Son Volt. The band’s debut album, Trace, spent time on the Billboard 200 and was very influential to Jesse. “(Jay) is one of the better songwriters who has ever lived,” Jesse Farrar says. “There are a lot of ties to Jay, and I think he lives in our music. Him, my dad, my grandfather (provided) a swirl of inspiration that I’ve not taken for granted.”