Jason Isbell felt confident he'd created something special with his latest album, "Something More than Free."
The rest of the world apparently shared that sentiment.
The album, Isbell's fifth solo effort since leaving Drive-By Truckers in 2007, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Country, Folk and Rock Albums charts last July. And it scored Isbell two Grammy Awards, for Best Americana Album and Best American Roots song for the track "24 Days."
"Y'know, it was a lot of fun. I had a good day -- a long day," Isbell, 37, says from a tour stop in Milwaukee. "I was dressed up doing stuff for about 16, 16 hours, but it was great. I appreciate that kind of thing. It's a lot better than not being recognized."
More importantly, Isbell adds, "I think my wife (Amanda Shires, who often performs with him) had a good time. She got to wear a fancy dress all day. We went to a fun after-party. It was really cool."
For Isbell, however, the success counts as icing on the cake. He didn't make "Something More Than Free" -- or any of his other albums, for that matter -- with the intention of topping the charts or winning Grammys.
"I just focus on writing and focus on recording and then on learning the songs and performing them live," he explains. "Everything else sort of catches you by surprise. When you're working on a record you don't want to regress as far as (the size of) your audience goes. But you don't want to think about that too much, either. YOu want to make a record that records a moment in time and do the work to make the songs as good as possible.
"There's a lot of things to think about when making an album. I don't have the space left in my brain to worry about what's gonna happen once it's out."
Isbell has been pleased with the live reception for his new material -- not many people hitting the bar or the bathroom during the new songs, in other words. Certain songs -- including the opening track, "If It Takes a Lifetime," and "Flagship" -- have become particular favorites, and more seem to add to the list with each successive tour.
"It's a relief," Isbell acknowledges, "'cause there's a period where you're twiddling your thumbs and a little bit nervous between the time it's recorded and the time it's released. I don't think my concerns really change all that much over that mount of time, though. Really, by the time the album comes out I'm just excited to go out and play the songs live and see what they sound
"The big thing is if you write about things important to you in the first place, they're still gonna be important when it comes out, I think."
Jason Isbell and Shovels & Rope
Tuesday, March 1. Doors open at 7 p.m.
Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St.
Tickets are $27.50 in advance, $35 day of show.
Call 248-399-2980 or visit royaloakmusictheatre.com.
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