On a trip to Italy three years ago, Texas-based singer/songwriter Jason Eady sought out the beach where his grandfather had fought in the Battle of Anzio during World War II. The location loomed large in his mind, but in reality it was much smaller than he imagined.
That discovery clarified something big for Eady: the luck that goes into being alive. With so little room to fight or seek cover, his grandfather might not have survived – and Eady wouldn’t be here today writing a song about it.
More than any other music genre, country loves to tell a story. Eady’s new single 'French Summer Sun', premiering exclusively below at Holler, elevates that form. He and co-writer Drew Kennedy found that a more traditional song structure didn’t serve the story, so they scrapped it entirely and decided to craft a predominantly spoken word track.
In ‘French Summer Sun’, Eady shares the largely fictional tale - inspired by his grandfather - of three generations, narrating the verses against a quietly plucked acoustic guitar and singing the chorus. It’s a departure for Eady, but one that showcases his storytelling prowess. Just when you think the song is going in one direction, he surprises you with a haunting epiphany reminiscent of the one he felt that day in Italy.
Big ideas like that don't come easily, as he explains, but once they do they can sure come quick. Even though it took over two years for the initial concept to simmer and become a song, he recorded 'French Summer Sun' in just one take. Holler spoke with Eady about the long road to create his new song and the beauty of its message.
How soon after you visited the beach in Italy did you begin writing the song?
I came up with the idea for it immediately, and then stewed on it for a couple of years. I had the whole thing framed - I knew where it was going to go and why. I knew everything except the lyrics. But it took a couple of years to sit down and put words to it.
Why did it take so long to wrestle it out of you?
I think it was just such a big idea. Sometimes when [songs are] that big, it’s almost intimidating to try and tackle it. For one, I wanted to make sure I got it right. In the writing process, I’m a big fan of not forcing things. They happen when they’re supposed to happen. I’m always gathering pieces and gathering ideas and always thinking about them, but I don’t really write them until I feel like it’s absolutely time to do it.
Honestly, I got so hung up on it - that’s why I called [co-writer] Drew Kennedy, who's a great literary kind of writer. I called him and explained the idea over the phone, and he thought about it for another month. I did too and then we got together and wrote it. Once we sat down to do it, I think the whole thing took 20 minutes. It was a lot of talk that went into that 20 minutes.
Why was it important to structure the song with spoken word verses?
We didn’t set out to do that, but it’s kind of the same reason that the production is so scaled down: getting the lyric out front was so important. Nothing added to it, everything distracted from it. It’s a wordy song so to get the melody to fit, it felt like we were forcing it and finally we stopped. It was pretty obvious right off the bat that that’s where it wanted to go.
I’d never done anything like that before. It was uncomfortable, for me, performing it - and not even in front of people. Once we wrote it, I had to sit in my living room and do it a lot to get comfortable. It’s a whole different thing. We did the same thing in the studio with the production. We tried a cello on it, we tried some strings on it, we tried all sorts of things, and the same exact thing: it sounded pretty, but it was distracting.
Well, you can honestly say you tried.
We did, but in the end, it wants to be a simple song that’s told simply.
What do you hope listeners take away from the song?
I hope people connect to it. It’s really a true statement in songwriting that the more specific you get, the more universal it is. It’s very true. This was a very specific story to me, even though the details of the story are not true. The character is made up, but the overall arc of the story - as far as the guy getting injured and coming back and getting a job - that’s true. We took liberties with the specifics.
It’s kind of a story about the fragility of life, how fragile the whole system. One wrong move and it doesn’t just affect your life, but it affects all the lives after you. Everything has to have gone pretty perfectly for things to have turned out the way they have.
‘French Summer Sun’ appears on Eady’s forthcoming eighth studio album, To the Passage of Time, out August 27.
Photography by Brandon Aguilar