I still don’t understand the timing of the demands or their unwillingness to get together, face to face, to try to work it out.
story by Chris Castaneda
photo by Jim Newberry
Jay Farrar thought he had Son Volt reunited. It had been four years since Son Volt was active; six years since the band’s last album Wide Swing Tremolo. He thought that a new chapter could be written to a story that was left open with Mike Heidorn and Jim and Dave Boquist. He was wrong.
After Farrar chose to quit Uncle Tupelo in 1994, he made a fresh start with Son Volt. Mike Heidorn, the original drummer for Uncle Tupelo, left the band after 1992′s March 16-20, 1992 but rejoined Farrar in 1995 with Son Volt. By 2000, with three Son Volt albums under his belt, Farrar was into his first year as a father and made the decision to step away from the band for personal and musical reasons. “I felt that I had to scale back and spend time with my family,” says Farrar. “At the same time there were elements that I wanted to pursue with the solo records that I felt maybe wouldn’t be the best fit in the Son Volt context.”
Initiated by the benefit album Por Vida this past April for singer-songwriter Alejandro Escovedo – who was hospitalized for Hepatitis C in April of 2003 – Son Volt reconvened in the studio. “From a musical perspective it was evident that we had spent many hours playing together in the past and that we could coalesce and fall into step pretty well,” says Farrar. Then around June, negotiations began to finalize a proposal to commit to an album and tour. All parties communicated through their lawyers, with Heidorn and the Boquist brothers all represented by the same lawyer. Then near the end of September an announcement was made on Farrar’s Web site (www.jayfarrar.net) that Son Volt was back, but Farrar was soon faced with more demands from his bandmates.
According to Farrar, “The timing of the new demands was more of an issue for me than the actual details of the demands. The negotiating part was supposed to have been all agreed on weeks before. It was the first day of rehearsal and we were supposed to be playing music. I called them all and told them ‘come on, let’s set up and play, we can rise above these differences and work it out as we go’, but they refused to show up and they really only wanted to communicate through their lawyer. I was sitting at the studio waiting for them. I was devastated. I still don’t understand the timing of the demands or their unwillingness to get together, face to face, to try to work it out.”
Farrar’s lawyer, Josh Grier, said the turn of events had less to do with musical retribution for the way Farrar left Son Volt hanging in the wind to pursue a solo career and more to do with where the other members were at in their post-Son Volt lives. “I don’t think anybody had any opposition to the creative side of it, but – five years later – mortgages, kids, and wives can change everything.” Mike Heidorn and Dave Boquist were offered, by phone and e-mail, the opportunity to go on the record for this article. Since conferring with the Boquist brothers, Mike Heidorn said in response to a final request, via e-mail, that the three members would not comment at this time regarding Son Volt.
For now, Farrar has recruited a new line-up and has begun sessions for a new Son Volt album due out next year. Also in the works will be an anthology of Son Volt material scheduled to coincide with the new album and tour. Whether or not this will re-establish Son Volt on the musical map again is unknown, but Farrar is pressing forward, past the major disappointment delivered by his bandmates. “I’d still like to consider them friends,” says Farrar. “Hopefully we could still work together in some capacity.”
Jay Farrar :: with John Doe :: FitzGerald’s :: November 12.