RY: About Paradise Valley, that record came together lightning fast by your standards. What was your process like with Paradise Valley and how was it different from the Born and Raised process?
JM: Paradise Valley is a record that didn’t need to exist by normal industry standards. I didn’t know that it was going to be a record until March and I realized I wanted more songs to play onstage. And to be honest, I’m glad I did now.
"Dear Marie" sits in the set really well. "Paper Doll" fits well. "Wildfire" was really needed. Look, I’m aware that there are certain songs that I’ve taken off the table. I feel like it’s only fair that if you’re going to take certain songs off the table, you replace them with other songs at a ratio of 1:1.
I love "On the Way Home" and "You’re No One ‘Til Someone Lets You Down." And I really—maybe not for the right reasons—but I wanted to put another record out to make up for the time I lost. I said right before Born and Raised that I want to put out tons of records in my 30s. I want to put too much music out.
I just wouldn’t have been happy going on tour and saying, “Okay, we’re promoting Born and Raised at an amphitheater with 20,000 people—I couldn’t play "Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey" into "Born and Raised" into "Speak for Me." It’s just not the kind of record it is. I don’t want to make records driven by being commercial all the time or having to be super up, anthemic, live show all the time. I want to weave in and out of it.
Paradise Valley came out of needing to make another record. It’s not slapped together, but if I’d spent a year writing Paradise Valley, I would’ve written a song that kicked off "You’re No One ‘Til Someone Lets You Down." I would’ve had too much time, and I would’ve thought, I don’t like "Badge and Gun" anymore. And I would’ve put something else on and it would’ve been a completely different record.
So, there is something to be said for putting music out before you overthink it. Paradise Valley is like version 1.0 of that idea and I like it for that. But it’s not multilayered and it’s not multifaceted. It’s a mood record about one mood, really.
Sometimes I like records that have a bunch of angles to them, ones that feel like mix records. And sometimes I like a record that you put on and it’s a mood.
Not every piece of art has to be glacially large, a thousand feet deep, hit you over the head, wow you, make you feel small because of how large it is. This is a very human-sized record and I think it’ll stand the test of time. Especially because it came out in a year where there is so much hyperactivity around putting music out, that Paradise Valley is kind of not trying at all. It’s just being.
And maybe I won’t get credit for it this year, but I think over time you get credit for having always shown up to the party, always having just made music and put it out. The trends in music releasing will always change, but the trends in what people want to hear and what moves people—there are only eight notes in the major scale, you know?
You can revolutionize the release of music or the way you listen to it all you want, but even if Born and Raised and Paradise Valley don’t sell a ton of records, I think it’s a really cool thing to be an artist who didn’t flinch. I think it’s really important that I never flinched.
And it’s tough, because I want to. I want to go, “Hey, I haven’t lost my touch, have I?” I want to be on the American Music Awards, I want to open the show. But not if I purposefully [have to shift my music to make it happen]. Paradise Valley’s power comes from it not being like anything else this year. What’s really difficult sometimes is to make that decision to not work with co-writers, to not go in with some producer who just finished up someone else’s record that we can point to and say, “Well, me, too.”
I made that decision to do something really organic and from the heart. And then doing it is a little bit harder than to dream about it because I could miss opportunities. My door doesn’t get knocked on a ton of times—this year.