Interview: Caleb Landry Jones

Eva Mackevic

Caleb Landry Jones spoke to us from his parents’ farm in Texas about the making of his debut album, The Mother Stone

I noticed a subtle, warm humour that Caleb’s management all share when they talk about him; a bit like they’re the doting parents of an unruly son. For example, the publicist asks me if we can arrange the interview late in the evening because “Caleb’s not a morning person,” and his manager offers to connect the call in case “Caleb’s not there,” as if he anticipates him forgetting about the scheduled interview.

Everyone is doing their best to accommodate his needs, which signals to me that I might have to deal with a bit of an attitude but it turns out I couldn’t be more wrong.


Image via Jaqueline Castel

The reason everyone’s doing their best to simplify things for Caleb is because…well, he’s a bit all over the place: distracted and overwrought but in a completely benevolent, harmless way that makes him hugely endearing.


Image via Henry Diltz 

The connection keeps dropping as I speak to him and we keep awkwardly interrupting each other because of the delay in audio. Finally, he moves somewhere else and mumbles apologetically, “I'm not sure what happened. I'm sitting right by the open door in the garage, so I'm in the best place other than...other than baking in the sun. And I turn red if I sit under the sun.”

Reader’s Digest: Tell us a bit about The Mother Stone and how it came about.  

Caleb Landry Jones: I'm not really sure how to talk about it because I think it's about a lot of things. And some of the things I'm probably not as aware of as I should be to explain them thoroughly. But it came about when I was working on a movie and I had some spare time and some extra feelings that I needed to do something with. 

I ended up in Los Angeles after shooting the project and couldn't get back to Texas, where I normally record my music by myself in my parents' place. So instead I met up with [producer] Nic [Jodoin] at the Valentine Studios and we started to make it in a studio.

RD: What do you mean when you say you’re not aware of some of the things that this record is about? Do you feel them on some subconscious level?  

CLJ: Yeah, absolutely. I was watching an interview where Brian Wilson was talking to George Martin. They're both older, or whatever. But they were sitting in a recording booth and going over Pet Sounds and stuff. And Brian Wilson was talking about how he felt songwriting was very subconscious. And I went, "Yay!" You know, I was so glad to hear him say that. Because for me, it's part of the fun behind it, not knowing what you're making while you're making it really, except that you have an idea, and you're trying to just do your best to capture it.

But at the same time be open to any new ideas or any new things that happen.

RD: This being your debut music album, were you freaking out about the reaction it would get?

CLJ: Half of the time, yeah. I think the first half we were just busy working on it. And then, as it started coming together, and we were beginning to realise what the record was, I started thinking more about people’s reaction. But I was just really excited too. I was excited to see if people would dig it or not. 

And then as it started getting closer and closer, I got more nervous and more anxious, you know. I started doubting myself. But luckily, it was too late to change anything by then.


RD: Do you think that having found fame as an actor was beneficial to the album release or was it a hindrance in any way?

CLJ: I think it was probably both. But it was definitely much more beneficial just in the sense that, had I put out the record ten years ago, we wouldn't have gotten any attention at all. At least now, I'm able to talk to someone like you. I mean, it was [famous indie director] Jim Jarmusch who put me in touch with the studio—it’s all through acting.


Caleb in Get Out (2017)

I wouldn’t have been able to pay for the record had it not been for acting. I would’ve had to make a very different kind of record for somebody else who wanted different things. So I was really lucky that this other thing that I love has given me the opportunity to do this record.

RD: When I found out you were making an album, I had no idea what to expect from it…

CLJ: [Interrupts] I bet you were expecting some industrial techno or something [Laughs]?

RD: I didn't know what to expect at all! And then I heard it and I was like, “Yeah, of course...of course this is what it's gonna sound like. [Laughs]”  I thought it had the same kind of vibe as the roles you go for; disturbing, unique, quite dark, slightly unhinged. So I was just wondering if that's something you tried to deliberately infuse your work in both acting and music with?       

CLJ: Yes. I think it's built from experiences and just life in general. There's probably a reason that I gravitate towards certain filmmakers and you know, certain kinds of work and certain kinds of artists, as we all do, but I don't know what all of those reasons are exactly. I guess I just always want to be a part of some work that I naturally identify with.

I’m just lucky I’ve been able to work with people who have allowed me to express myself and find things like that.

RD: Are you planning on making more music in the future?

CLJ: Covid-19 has put a little bit of a stop on things but we’re in the middle of mixing the next few albums so yeah, there’s more to come hopefully.

RD: Are there any artists you would love to collaborate with in the future?

CLJ: I've got some friends that I hope I’ll get to make some more music with someday. But everybody who plays on the Mother Stone record… it turned into a sort of repertory. I want the same players, the same people to come back to play on my next records. But artists as far as Post Malone and stuff like that, I don’t really know, I haven’t thought about it much [Laughs]. One thing I know, there’s a lot of dead musicians I’d like to work with though [Laughs].

 

The Mother Stone is out now on Sacred Bones

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