Something More Than Free

Album: Something More Than Free (2015)
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Songfacts®:

  • There are echoes of the Isbell-penned 2003 Drive by Truckers track "Outfit" in this song, particularly the line about loading boxes for someone else. Uncut magazine asked Isbell to what extent his songs about ordinary hardship is a gesture of thanks that he escaped that kind of work? He replied: "These songs are inspired by conversations with my father. He's worked very hard his whole life, as did his father and mother. I worked very hard myself, but there are obvious rewards to what I'm doing."

    "Dad's only reward is a family that is well taken care of, and that seems to be enough for him. Those stories are the ones that interest me the most: work as a service, as a labor of love in the truest sense."
  • Asked about the meaning of the song title by The Sun, Isbell replied: "Freedom is a means to the end. It can be the path to happiness, but it can also be enough rope by which to hang yourself. Once you've been granted the ability to make your own decisions, what then?"
  • The track tells the story of a blue-collar worker trying to ensure his family is well-supported. "It's a country song," Isbell told Rolling Stone Country. "Not in the way that country songs sound like modern rock songs or hip-hop right now, but it's got a country-sounding melody, and the images are about work and family."
  • Jason Isbell explained how he wrote the track: "There were two things that happened at the same time that I thought were unrelated until I actually started the process of writing the song," he said. "I was on the phone with my dad, and he works six days a week, sometimes seven days a week; he does maintenance at a hospital. And my sister, she and my stepmom go to church on Wednesdays [and] on Sunday mornings. Dad works all week, so you know, Sunday's his only day to sleep past 5 a.m."

    "So I was on the phone with him, and he was saying, 'You know, I wish I could go to church with them. I think I probably should be, but I'm just too exhausted every Sunday to do that,'" Isbell continued. "And it occurred to me, I thought, 'Man, what kind of a position is that to be in - you know, where you're really grateful for having this job that prevents you from being grateful in public about it in the way that people in my part of the country normally show their gratitude, by going to church and giving thanks with their community for something like that?'"

    Isbell was struck by the thought of his father employed in a job that supports a life, which he doesn't have time to appreciate. It also connected with a lyric idea that he'd come up with while on a plane. "The first line of the song … 'When I get home from work, I'll call up all my friends, and we'll go bust up something beautiful we'll have to build again' - that came to me before the rest of the song did, and I was so thankful for that line." Isbell said. "It was one of those lines, and I know these are going to work out well when I don't have to record any sound, when I can just write it down on a piece of paper, and I don't forget the melody."

Comments: 1

  • Robert from Attica, MichiganClassic song. His 3 best records Southeastern, Something's More Than Free and The Nashville Sound. All in a row. The Ryan Adams of the 2010s. Maybe better.
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