I want to do bad things to you. Those are the original lyrics to the hit song “Bad Things” by Jace Everett. As you can imagine, those lyrics were inspired by a not so friendly encounter Everett had with a friend. Eventually the lyrics would be changed to something a little less creepy and a highly successful song was born. Do any of you out there know where you may have heard the song? Give up yet? It is the song that is featured prominently on the opening credits of HBO’s critically acclaimed vampire drama ‘True Blood’. Often mixed up with Chris Isaak or Johnny Cash, Everett has achieved great success with “Bad Things”. The song has earned Everett several BMI awards and has given new life to his musical career. Proving to be a survivor in an industry that takes no prisoners, Everett has persevered for thirteen years in the entertainment industry and is now celebrating the re-release of his best album to date, ‘Red Revelations’. Steve Johnson of Icon vs. Icon recently sat down with Jace to discuss his influences, his album ‘Red Revelations’, who he would love to collaborate with, and of course “Bad Things” and ‘True Blood’.
First off, I want to give our readers a little background on you. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Forth Worth, Texas.
How did music first come into your life?
I always kind of had an affinity for it. My dad had a cool record collection of Elvis, Sinatra, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and things like that. I kind of fell in love with Willie and then as a young teenager I got involved in the evangelical Christian movement in Texas. That’s kind of where I really started performing and playing in public.
Are there any other influences that have helped shape you, the musician that we know today?
Oh gosh! I steal from everybody! So yeah, pick one, it’s probably someone I have fallen in love with! From reggae like Bob Marley, to Ray Charles, to U2. It’s kind of all over the map.
What drove you to make music your career?
I would assume stupidity. [laughs] It’s a horrible way to make a living. Really, I’ve been getting paid for it since I was eighteen and that was twenty years ago. I’ve had other jobs, but when you’ve had the joy of playing on stage and getting paid for it, driving a dump truck is just not as appealing. I just kept coming back to it and have had a lot of good fortune and good luck that has paid off over the years.
As you mentioned, the music industry is often a hard path to follow. What has kept you inspired through the years?
A lot of things man. It really is a passion, but I’ve also really have been blessed with financial opportunities. I’ve had the opportunity to play bass for people that paid me well as a young man. I’ve been in cover bands that made a good living in my twenties. In my late twenties I moved to Nashville and almost immediately got a recording contract and a publishing deal. The harder I work, the luckier I get I guess. That’s what it boils down to. I’ll be broke for about two years and then I’ll get some kind of windfall opportunity and that will last for a year or two. It’s just kind of like this perpetual machine that keeps me on this tread mill.
You mentioned your influences earlier. Is there anyone in the music industry that you would like to collaborate with?
Yeah, I keep saying this and hopefully one of them will read it! [laughs] I’d really love to do something with KT Tunstall. I’m just a huge fan of hers. Over the past couple of years I have become a really big fan of The Roots, particularly ?uestlove and his drumming. I’d love to make a record with those guys sometime.
I saw that you had a co-writing credit for the Josh Turner song ‘Your Man’.
Yeah, I wrote a song a few years back that Josh wound up recording and had a number one with it in country radio. So that was pretty cool. I didn’t actually write that with Josh. I wrote that with some other friends of mine. It’s been his biggest hit so far, so it’s cool.
I’ve listened to that song a hundred times and didn’t realize you co-wrote it. It’s a good song man.
Your album ‘Red Revelations’ was just re-released on June 8th. For those people not familiar with your music, how would you best describe it?
Most people that do know who I am know ‘Bad Things’ from ‘True Blood’. If you like that, there’s a strong possibility you’re going to like ‘Red Revelations’. I’ve done a mainstream country project before. I did like an acoustic blues kind of record after that. This one is kind of mixing up Americana, rock and roll, and blues. It’s not country really, but there’s still some of that Nashville song craft. At least I hope it’s in there. I do firmly believe that it’s all about the song.
I am familiar with you from ‘True Blood’, so I decided to give your record a listen. It’s phenomenal. I loved it.
Thank you! Thank you very much! I appreciate that!
Were there any challenges to making the record?
Oh god! [laughs] You mean besides money, time, patience, and personnel. Yeah! There always is! I had amazing musicians. I had some great co-producers and co-writers like Chuck Prophet, Dan Cohen, Stephany Delray, and Greg Droman. Some people that are masters at what they do. We had very limited funds going in to do it, but I think we spent every penny really well. It cost pennies on the dollar compared to what Sony paid for making my first record and for me, it trounces it in every single category. If you have good songs and good players, really all you have to do is get out of the way and the record tends to kind of make itself.
You mentioned some of your other records. Do you consider ‘Red Revelations’ your best album to date?
I do, but I’m trying to promote it too. I’ll likely say that anytime anybody asks me about my new record! [laughs] It’s been finished for a year and I’ve been touring with it. What’s exciting about it is that I love the album. Even when it’s just me and my guitar player playing the album, it still works for me. The production on the record is really cool, but you can strip away some of that production and the songs still stand up. That’s probably what I am most proud of.
What is the significance of the title?
It’s actually a little bit of a pun. It’s a misread of a lyric on one of the songs. It’s a song called ‘One of Them’. At the very end of it I go back to some of my fire and brimstone roots. The narrator of the song says, “I read revelations chapters one until the end. You’ve got to save me babe. I think I’m one of them.” So instead of R-E-A-D Revelations, I changed it to R-E-D just to have a little fun with it.
What is your typical songwriting process like?
There’s no real formula unfortunately. I wish there were. As often as not, what will happen is I’ll have the beginnings of a song idea or one of my co-writers will have the beginnings. Maybe a first verse or maybe just a chorus or something. Then we’ll get together with each other and just kind of beat it into something. Occasionally with a song like ‘The Good Life’, I had the lyrics basically finished, but with completely different music which I hated. So I brought in Dan Cohen and he came up with a cooler musical direction. Then we completely re-wrote the choruses. It’s a real organic thing. These songs are a living being.
Do you have a favorite song off of the album?
I don’t know if I have a favorite song. I think my favorite record, because I’m thinking about the production and everything, is probably ‘Damned if I Do’. It just got picked up for an episode of ‘True Blood’ this coming season, which is cool.
The album features ‘Bad Things’, which of course is the theme song for HBO’s ‘True Blood’. Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration for the song and how it became a part of the show?
The inspiration for the song started as not a sexy thing at all. Originally the first five minutes I was writing it, I was saying “I want to do bad things to you.” There was a guy that owed me some money and I was about to go over to his house and move the furniture around. I realized after playing with that title that it sounded a little creepy, so I changed it to “I want to do bad things with you” and started trying to make it more boy/girl. I wrote it in about twelve minutes. It’s an old song. I wrote it in 2003. Recorded and released it in 2005 on Sony. Alan Ball, the creator of ‘True Blood’, is a bit of an iTunes junkie I guess. He goes on there sometimes when he’s working on a script and downloads fifty to a hundred songs. I was one of the lucky winners one day. He picked my song and he liked it a lot. He sent it to the guys at Digital Kitchen who did those opening credits and said, “Hey man! Check this out! Try to do something with that!” Of course they just knocked it out of the park. It’s really dumb shit luck on my part and pure genius on theirs, so I’m happy.
What has having your song on the front of a hugely successful television series done for your career?
I’ve said this before, but basically it’s given me a career back when my career was kind of up on the blocks in the front yard as hillbillies will do. [laughs] Having hundreds of thousands to millions of people that watch the show every week hear my goofy song, eventually they are like, “Who is that? That’s kind of cool. Is that Johnny Cash? is it Chris Isaac? Is it this? Is it That? Who is that?” They came and looked for me and now they’re coming to my shows, they’re buying my records, and putting food on my family’s table. I’m extremely grateful.
Do you watch the show?
I do. The first season I couldn’t afford HBO. I would have to drive fifty miles to my mother’s house and watch ‘True Blood’ with my mom, which I don’t recommend. It’s really uncomfortable. [laughs] After the ‘True Blood’ checks started to come in, I was able to splurge and get HBO. Now we have our little ‘True Blood’ parties over here at the house.
Is there any chance of you having a cameo in the show?
I’m willing! I’ve always had the fantasy of being a janitor cleaning up some blood at Fangtasia or something and just get brutally murdered by Eric or somebody like that. I think that would be really fun. It would have to be the fourth season. I think they’re pretty much wrapped on season three. I think there’s at least five or six seasons in this show, so we’ll see if I can’t worm my way in there somehow.
Have you been approached about having more of your music featured in the series?
Yeah. ‘Damned If I Do’ is going to be in it this season. They’ve also used a version of an old Howlin’ Wolf tune that C.C. Adcock and I did called ‘Evil’. They’re using that for promos this season and it’s on the new soundtrack as well.
Last year you were awarded with a BMI Cable Award for your work on ‘True Blood’. What was that experience like for you?
It was neat man. I went out to Beverly Hills and hung out with all of the rich, white folk. I had a good old time. I kind of felt like the red-headed step-child there, but hell I’m red-headed so it’s really not that much of a move for me. It was fun man. I’ve got three BMI awards now. For Josh Tuner, for ‘Bad Things’, and I just got another one for ‘Bad Things’ a couple of weeks ago. It a great organization. They really take care of song writers and make sure that we get paid. It’s a great organization to be involved with.
When and where can people catch up with you on tour?
Oh god. I don’t have the dates in front of me bro. We’ll be all across the mid-west. We’re going to be in Minneapolis, Chicago, Urbana, Iowa City. There will be more dates posted on the website here in the next few days. They can just got to www.jaceeverett.com. They can also find me on Facebook. I actually do my own Facebook page. I don’t have somebody do that for me. It’s me on there. So if somebody wants to say hey, I try to say hey back every chance I get.
Have you ever had a “Spinal Tap” moment on stage, where something totally unexpected has happened to you?
Oh god! More times than I would prefer to mention. I’ve never actually had a small Stonehenge appear and gotten trampled by midgets. [laughs] I have had moments where you get up and you go to hit a chord and you don’t understand why you can’t hear anything. You’re yelling at the sound guy and your just pissed off. Then you realize that you’ve left your tuner on, which means it’s your guitar. I’ve had things like that happen. Idiot moves! Nine times out of ten those things are one hundred percent my fault! [laughs]
What do you hope people come away with after listening to your music or seeing your love show?
Hopefully a handful of Cd’s and a couple of tee shirts. [laughs] Seriously, I hope they see that I am just a blue-collar, working class guy that’s making up songs and trying to give the best show he can every single night. I hope they have a hell of a great time.
Do you have anything that you consider the defining moment of your musical career?
I really don’t. Not to be coy, but I really try to look forward to the next show and try to make that a big moment. I’ve played Leno. I’ve played TV in Europe. I’ve played on stage with Julian Lennon. I’ve done a lot of cool things, but music is pretty ephemeral. I try to think like my dog and live in the moment.
What is the best piece of advice someone has given you along the way in your career?
Own your own stuff. Own your publishing. Own your masters. Own the rights to what you create. Own your own creations because if you’re ever going to make any money, the only way to make it is to actually own the material. That’s a lesson hard learned and hard to do because it takes a lot of money to make records and supports yourself. I definitely encourage young songwriters in particular to own as much of their publishing as they possibly can because that’s where any money I have really made in this business comes from.
Is there any other advice you have for someone who would like to pursue a career in the entertainment industry?
Don’t! [laughs] Be something else! [laughs] If you’re going to do it, don’t do it because you want to be famous or because you want to be on the magazine or because you think it’s sexy and glamorous. It’s not. That’s what people see, but you spend a lot of time doing a lot of hard work. If you don’t have a true passion for the music, for the fans, and for the performing, then it’s really going to be too much and your not going to be able to handle it. Check your head and make sure your heart is in the right place.
That’s pretty much what we get from everybody when we ask that question.
Yeah! It’s brutal!
Is there anything else you want to let your fans know before you go?
No buddy! That’s cool! You know what you’re doing! You’ll add whatever you think they want to read! Do your thing! [laughs]
Thanks for your time. We wish you all the best.
All right buddy.