In 1988, Jack O'Neill and Cary Pierce, the "Jack O" and "Pierce" who make up the seminal acoustic duo, Jackopierce, were playing cover songs in a dingy club with a crummy PA in their hometown of Dallas, Texas. In a moment of young-musician desperation, they whipped up a tune on the spot called "Three of Us In A Boat" to elongate their set. That became a signature track for a decade-long career wherein the two-piece sold 500,000 records over six albums (two for major label A&M) and toured three continents, nine countries, and 44 states. After a five-year breakup, in 2002 the duo reconvened as Jackopierce. Today Jack O'Neill and Cary Pierce have a renewed creative vigor, mutual respect, and deep gratitude for their Jackopierce heritage. These good vibes shine through on JP's euphoric new album, Everywhere All The Time, out August 28.
"If you do the math, you realize we've been reunited longer than we initially were together. We've grown up, we got over a lot of stuff, and we're great friends. It's been over 20 years of friendship," Jack O'Neill says. "It's like a couple getting remarried. The band previously became a job and we started to hate it and hate each other. We have newfound gratitude for each other and we really appreciate what we have," Cary Pierce adds.
JP's latest, Everywhere All The Time, is a charmingly elegant modern pop-rock record with big hooks and a crisp production aesthetic courtesy of Cary Pierce. It's the most emotionally accessible album of the band's career; it's both warmly playful and vulnerably sincere. "It's something I would want to listen to on a summer afternoon at the beach. We said 'Let's just go for it and write fun stuff,'" O'Neill explains. "I get accused of writing the darker stuff, but my life isn't that dark, it's good. If there is an attitude on the record, it's 'we're grateful where we're at and we're gonna have fun with it.'"
"On this record, Cary and I collaborated a lot more. 'Listen To Me' started off like a ballad, but he jacked up the tempo and it became Mark Knopfler-like," O'Neill says of the bluegrass-tinged tune. The track delicately contrasts smoky atmospherics with urgent poise. "It's about making a commitment, open your eyes and don't take things for granted. That's how we view this whole thing," O'Neill reveals. The album balances lushly rustic mid-tempo numbers with beautifully soaring pop-rock. The winsome grace of "Let Go Of Me" is transcendently romantic. "Jerry Maguire is my favorite movie, especially the line, 'You had me at hello.' For this track, it's 'I'm not letting you get rid of me,'" Pierce details. The goosebump-inducing hooks of "Into Me" and "Alright By Me" aptly compliment the tender emotionality of the pensive songs. "Into Me" opens the album and bursts forth endearingly humorous and heartfelt. How many pop-rock love songs reference Vanessa and Denise Huxtable? On "Alright By Me," the giddy name checks continue as Pierce drops People Magazine and Bubblicious gum into the mix. "Every 6 weeks I get a haircut and there is nothing more delicious than having that thirty minutes - me and a stack of People Magazines," Pierce says laughing. "These lyrics are fun, 'her lips all Bubblicious'... the sound is tasty."
During the band's hiatus, Pierce immersed himself in Nashville's rich co-writing scene, and, in addition to sharpening his songwriting chops, he came into his own as a producer. Pierce produced Everywhere All The Time, as well as 2008's country-rock flavored comeback, Promise Of Summer. "This album is different from Promise Of Summer's Mellencamp-esque sounds. For this new record, I brought in younger players so I got fresh perspectives. I learned from the T-Bone Burnett school of production [T-Bone, a 12-time Grammy winner is best known for producing the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, as well as albums by Roy Orbison, John Mellencamp, and Alison Krauss and Robert Plant] to cast the best players and let them do what they do," Pierce says - referencing T Bone's production on their major label debut, "Bringing on the Weather." Most of the album's basics were cut in Nashville with overdub sessions conducted throughout the country while JP was on tour.
It's a time of fertile creativity for the duo, and celebrating the past inspires the guys to move forward in inventive ways. To freshen the live show, Jackopierce have initiated uniquely intimate "Destination Shows." This is a whole new fan experience where people can enjoy gorgeous scenery, delicious food, and campfire performance accessibility to their favorite band. It's a vacation and concert in one. Since debuting these in 2009, the duo have put together 8 of these packages, 7 of these have sold out. The locales have been diversely pastoral, at choice wineries in Sonoma and Martha's Vineyard, as well as bucolic spots like Austin's Star Hill Ranch and the Aspen Mountain Club. "Cary and I found there are people like us that like to go to a vineyard and have a lobster bake and listen to tunes," O'Neill says. "It's a reason to go on vacation and see a band."
To toast the duo's roots, reconciliation, and reinvigoration, JP close Everywhere All The Time with a buoyant reggae-reworking of "Three of us In a Boat." "My joke about our breakup was that Jack couldn't bring himself to play 'Three of Us In a Boat' again," Pierce says with a chuckle. "I definitely went through a phase where I didn't want to play that song," O'Neill affirms. "I grew up loving reggae like Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley. I just started playing 'Three of Us' reggae style and fell in love with the tune again," Pierce says. "It's fun to reinvent things. I always loved how Sting would reinvent songs and throw lyrics from different songs into the mix."