Estranged Jayhawks songwriting partners Gary Louris & Mark Olson have reunited for a new album, Ready For The Flood (New West). The low-key acoustic set, tastefully produced by the Black Crowes' Chris Robinson, focuses on their superb compositions and stirring vocal interplay, which they'll showcase at the Mod Club on Wednesday (February 4).
Why did it take so long to reunite?
I've been wondering what happened myself. After Mark left the band in 1995, there was a misunderstanding about whether we should continue using the Jayhawks name. Mark and I didn't resolve it then, and not speaking together for a long period of time only made matters worse.
How did you resolve the impasse?
There was a call from a music supervisor for a project requesting a new Olson/Louris composition in 2001. That was the initial push we needed to get in a room together. We talked about what was bugging us and sorted everything out. Once we began writing and playing shows together again, it felt weird not to record a new album.
The low-key vibe of Ready For The Flood may be a shock to fans expecting a roaring country-rock comeback. What happened?
This might not be cool to admit, but I'm a big Simon & Garfunkel fan, and I love the simplicity of two people singing and playing together. We felt we could do it, and Chris really cracked the whip to make it happen.
What makes your partnership click?
More than anyone I've worked with, Mark is a kindred spirit. We're like brothers. His approach to writing is more free-form; his melodies are guided by his lyrics, whereas I'm more concerned with structure and symmetry. So I make his stuff tighter and he loosens mine up.
Do you have an affinity for the Toronto music scene or is seeing you in bars here just a coincidence?
I really love Toronto and the people there. Actually, I just produced some songs for Kristen Jones in Toronto, who has a beautiful voice that reminds me of Emmylou Harris. I happened to be in Toronto when Obama won the election, which was interesting. Everyone was like, "Hey, we'd like a leader like that, too!"