Great Peacock is officially a trio for their third studio album, Forever Worse Better, which was released on October 12. Frank Keith IV has been on the road with Andrew Nelson and Blount Floyd for years, but for the first time, he went into the studio with the band.
It’s a rock record the way that Ryan Adams makes rock records; too far from “folk” to be Americana, really. It’s different. It’s not what you came to expect from Nelson and Floyd on 2015’s Making Ghosts or 2018’s Gran Pavo Real. The track “Rock of Ages” showcases that sound pretty well – a louder, fuller pedal steel driven track complemented by the wail of a Sadler Vaden electric solo.
Blount grew up in Dothan, and I wanted to talk to him about the new record because I also wanted to talk to him about Auburn football. We talked about that sound, working with Vaden on two of the album’s tracks, the guy that played bass on the last album [you might know him] and about pandemic Southeastern Conference football.
You’ve created a pretty different sound here, and while I know the comparison comes with baggage these days, it has a bit of a Ryan Adams vibe. Is that fair?
I’m not going to shy away from the fact that Ryan Adams was a major influence on us…musically. Prisoner was the best record that he’s done since Cold Roses.
We weren’t trying to go that way; it’s just kind of how it happened. Chorus on guitars and stuff like that, I can definitely agree with that.
How did the sound arrive here from where it began?
It was kind of a natural thing. When we were touring on our first record, we were hiring a lot of outside people to handle electric guitar. Dan Fernandez – who produced our first record – did it for us as much as he could. He bounced around on electric and pedal.
When we started touring more, we kind of didn’t have a budget to bring anybody else. So we kind of started working as a four piece live, which in turn made me and Andrew have to start playing electric guitars on the road.
The second record is definitely more of a rock and roll record, and that’s kind of where we fleshed that out. It was a little less folky. And that’s kind of how it became what it is now. This record was a lot more overdub heavy; the last one was basically live.
We experimented a lot more on this one because we had the time. We recorded most of it at my house, so we had an endless supply of time.
Was that during the pandemic?
No, we went in the studio last July and did the meat and potatoes. We did the drums and bass at Sound Emporium [Nashville]. That was done in two days, and the rest was done here and there over the next couple of months at my house. I think we finished around February of this year and started heading toward mixing.
Is this the first actual record that Frank [Keith IV, bass] has been on?
Yeah, for sure. Frank started touring with us right after [Gran] Pavo [Real] came out. He didn’t play on Pavo, but he’s been our guy since then. When we went to record Pavo we didn’t have a bass player. [laughs]
Who did those parts?
We lucked out. Dex Green was gonna do the bass for us – the guy who was producing the record – but Tom [Blankenship] from My Morning Jacket was acquaintances with us through mutual friends. He came in to play two songs – it was kind of like, “Stop by and play a little,” you know? We all liked it a lot, and he just stayed for…the rest of time. He did all the bass except for one track, which I think Dex played.
I think you guys played with Sadler [Vaden] on this record. How did that come about?
Yeah! We’ve been good friends with Sadler for years. He always offers great advice and stuff like that. Late in the record, we had a song that we decided to add instead of another song that we had recorded. It just wasn’t flowing with the rest of the record. So I said, “Andrew, listen to this song that we wrote months and months and months ago.” It was called “Heavy Load.” We were talking and I just wanted that dirty, but smooth slide on that song, but I can’t play it that way.
We decided to just ask Sadler, and he was like, “Hell yeah!” So we just rolled over to his house with a hard drive and he knocked it out for us. He also played the best guitar solo on the record [laughs]. That’s on a song called “Rock of Ages.”
I had to learn it for the album release show, and man, I stopped learning exactly exactly what he played soon after.
Is that one cut out of the setlist for the future so you don’t have to do the solo?
[laughs] I hope so! I don’t want to have to learn it each time.
How are you holding up? Going stir crazy?
Man, you know, I’ve been really, really busy through all of this. My grandma passed away at the beginning of the pandemic, so I had to head down there. And at the same time, we were trying to sell our house in East Nashville. We moved out to the country, a little northwest of town.
So we’re moving, trying to get the record finished. I did work for a company that delivers for Amazon during that time. That was the worst job I ever had [laughs]. Those drivers – they put them through the ringer. I pity every Amazon delivery driver I see now; it’s a tough job. I did that for a couple of weeks before I went back to the restaurant I was at before things shut down. Once Labor Day hit, we got really busy again.
I’m not stir crazy. I’m always gone. With touring, you always have something to look forward to – and I was thinking back on this year, and I’ve been nowhere. We had a show in West Virginia in January. We went there, and we’ve done nothing since. I’ve been to Alabama, extreme North Florida and Tennessee. It’s so weird.
How long is your leash on [Auburn head football coach] Gus Malzahn right now?
[laughs] In my humble opinion – and I’ll definitely catch shit for this – I don’t think they should be playing college football this year. Pro? I get it.
Oh, I’m with you.
Pro, I understand. But it’s definitely putting unnecessary risks on those kids. There’s other ways to do it. They could give them a whole extra year of eligibility.
I mean…I’m watching it.
Right, same. [laughs]
I’m glad they’re playing in an absolutely selfish way.
NFL guys have a choice to make millions of dollars, but these guys have a bit of an obligation to do it because of their future career. It’s especially unique to college sports.
I unfortunately watched all of that Georgia game. [laughs] I’ve always been behind Gus. I’m not really ready to give up on him. I think he’s still learning how to be a head coach. He’s had his problems, but I’m still on the “Gus Bus.”
And Andrew is a big Georgia guy, right? How did that go between the two of you?
Thankfully, we haven’t talked about it. [laughs] The record has been great. And playing Georgia in October has been great for that. That was the grossest football game that I’ve ever seen. Both of the lines were just playing dirty – Auburn, too. There were so many holds! It was just gross.
Forever Worse Better is out now.