As the everyday person’s troubadour, Jeremy Ivey will share thoughtful tales of the nation’s turbulent political climate mixed with personal diaspora and societal struggles at The Blind Pig tomorrow night.
The Nashville, Tenn., singer-songwriter will make his live debut at the legendary Ann Arbor rock club and open for Ian Noe, a Beattyville, Ky., singer-songwriter.
“It will be me and a harmonica and a guitar, and I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been on enough hectic production tours that I’m ready to be by myself for a little bit,” said Ivey, who kicked off his tour Sept. 12 at Nashville’s AMERICANAFEST. “I’ll definitely play some songs from the record, but I’ve already recorded a second record and have the third one already written.”
Interpreting ‘The Dream and the Dreamer’
For his intimate Saturday night set, the prolific Ivey will feature homespun, deeply introspective tracks from his brilliant nine-track debut, “The Dream and the Dreamer,” which dropped earlier this month on Anti-Records.
Recorded in a small Nashville home studio with producer and wife Margo Price, Ivey’s album beautifully weaves elements of classic folk and gently-frayed psychedelia with Southern rock and Americana pop-tinged sensibilities. Price encouraged Ivey to write and record a batch of his own songs during a brief tour break.
“I co-write a lot with her, but I had been writing stuff that I was pretty sure she wasn’t going to sing. It only took me a couple of weeks, maybe a month tops, to write the whole thing,” said Ivey, who initially played with Price in the country-soul group Buffalo Cover as well as Secret Handshake.
“Everyone always says you take your whole life to write your first album, and I’ve been writing since I was 15, so that’s not necessarily true for me. I went in to record, it was supposed be demos, and it turned out pretty good. Anti had heard them, and then it all started to happen. I never really planned for it to be a record.”
Going from Diamonds to Dreaming in Mexico
At the start of Ivey’s highly-personalized record, “The Dream and the Dreamer” features the piano-tinged opener, “Diamonds Back to Coal,” and includes open-chord strums intertwined with emotional harmonies and a bouncy, mid-tempo melody. Beneath the up-tempo exterior lies a preoccupation with the nation’s news cycle and the problematic nature of Manifest Destiny.
Ivey wrote “Diamonds Back to Coal” after the tragic 2017 Las Vegas shootings that left 58 dead and 422 injured and as a frustrated response to an alt-right march. The track’s chorus, “Is this the land that we borrowed?/Is this the land that we stole?/Who’s gonna be the fool tomorrow? Who’s gonna try to play that role?/Turning diamonds back to coal,” was influenced by President Trump’s controversial “Make America Great Again” slogan.
“It was a pretty crazy, weird month in the news when I wrote all that stuff. I certainly don’t want to take that everything is perfect. I’m trying to keep it big enough to where it will fit things that are happening years from now,” said Ivey, who’s influenced by The Beatles, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. “My goal is to give the impression of what it’s like in our time, and also it could be really any time.”
Another standout track, “Story of a Fish,” includes thoughtful Tom Petty-esque guitars and harmonica accents that musically respond to Ivey’s vulnerable emotional state. After growing up in a conservative Georgia home, Ivey bounced around doing prep work in kitchens and came to terms with being an adoptee.
He beautifully equates his personal experience to salmon and how they’re born: “I’m a fool in school, a lonely molecule/Trying to swim through stone, I was born so far from home.”
Equally poetic is “Greyhound” with a swaggering country bassline that mimics riding a bus with Ivey cross-country. The Willie Nelson-inspired track features Price on backing vocals and serves as a heartfelt ode to “the lowest form of travel.” Ivey penned the track after riding a bus from Massachusetts down to Georgia and seeing America through a different class lens.
Meanwhile, the album’s title and closing track, “The Dream and the Dreamer,” spawned from a vivid dream Ivey had one night in Mexico. After passing out early, he awoke later in the night after dreaming about a green orb and a figure.
The green orb represented the dream while the figure symbolized the dreamer and morphed into a bigger story about America and the American dream. In a sense, “the dreamer was the exodus from England to find a new place,” Ivey recalled.
“When I woke up in the morning, I felt pretty positive, and then when I went to my phone. I had mumbled something into it and listened to my notes. I had grabbed my guitar and recorded it, and it was a fully realized song,” he added.
“It was the coolest thing I’ve ever experienced in the way of songwriting because I got to hear something that I’ve never heard before that I wrote and don’t remember writing. It’s kind of like singing someone else’s song.”
Gearing Up for the Next Project
With “The Dream and the Dreamer” under his belt, Ivey will continue his current U.S. tour through Oct. 26 and aspire to release an album a year, including a follow-up next fall. He also will open up for Price as part of a full band and make some European stops.
“The second album has a little different vibe. I also wrote all the words for it and the melodies. It’s probably a little more lyrical, but the music’s still there,” he said. “I wrote it all at the same time, and it has a tune that feels like the same thing. I think it will be cool whether people like it or not.”
7 p.m. Saturday
The Blind Pig, 208 S. First St. in Ann Arbor