The Midwest farmer’s daughter’s husband steps into the spotlight – Jeremy Ivey talks about his latest solo effort, Invisible Pictures previously in our APRIL 2022 issue of Uncut, available to buy here.
A little jealousy can be good for a marriage, especially one between two songwriters. Jeremy Ivey and his wife are always bouncing ideas off each other, always workshopping their latest compositions. “One of us will have a song that needs something, or we’ll have an idea that needs a little help developing, and the other person will chime in,” says the Nashville-based musician. “If something’s really good, the other person will get a little upset… They’ll want to help, because that means they own it, too. I’ve found that to be a constant feature of our collaboration, that little bit of creative jealousy.”
Ivey’s wife, of course, is Margo Price – and they’ve been writing together for more than a decade, longer than either of them have been solo artists. “It’s a lofty idea,” he says, “but we always wanted to be known as a songwriting team,” like Lennon–McCartney or Jagger–Richards. That collaboration shines on “Keep Me High”, a ’70s-styled standout on his new album, Invisible Pictures. All Ivey had was a chorus inspired by their new baby (“I got a new love that lasts forever”). “But I couldn’t think of a second verse, so Margo says, ‘Gimme a crack at that’. She wrote a few lines about someone named Becky who goes down to Florida with her undercover lawyer. Sometimes a song ends up not being about anything, really. Maybe there’s one line in there that’s the whole reason you wrote it. But it has to be interesting.”
After learning to play guitar from a Beatles chord book, Ivey first tried his hand at lyrics when he was 15 years old. “The first song I ever wrote was about Columbine. I read about this student who was killed, and I wrote a song called “Little Mary” from her point of view. It was a topical song, but it was horrible! Still, it made me want to express something about the world.”
That lesson continues to inform his songwriting. After moving to Nashville, he played in a series of local bands, which is how he met Price. Since then, they’ve co-written for all of their solo albums – three apiece, although they’re currently finishing up Price’s fourth. She produced his 2020 album Waiting Out The Storm, which was full of songs about the world their children would inherit. “I have two sides. One is that I want to say something about what’s going on in the world, I want to get people thinking about it. And the other side is that I want people to escape from it. Those two sides are always battling each other.”
By contrast, Invisible Pictures is Ivey’s most introverted collection – but also his most adventurous. Most of these songs came to him during lockdown, after he had spent months fighting off an especially harsh bout of Covid. “I’m borderline diabetic, so I’m super susceptible. It was intense. But I woke up one day and felt better. It was very freeing.” The whole experience redirected his songwriting. “There’s a specific reason why this record is more about myself. I’ve been shut off. I’m not really seeing the world except through a computer screen.”
Eschewing the country-rock that defined his previous records, Invisible Pictures evokes the oddball singer-songwriters of ’70s LA, particularly Randy Newman. The result is perhaps his most revealing statement as a solo artist, even if he admits, “I’m not 100 per cent comfortable in that role. I enjoy it and I always get excited when shows are coming up. But I like writing and recording – those are the two things that always get me going.”
Invisible Pictures is due out on March 11 via Anti-