Ahead of a benefit in Nashville that Johnson will play Wednesday, July 9th at Marathon Music Works for the Nikki Mitchell Foundation for pancreatic cancer, the songwriter let it be known that he’s still not writing, and there’s no resolution to his label issues in sight.
“When I get ready to write, I’ll write,” Jamey Johnson told Peter Cooper of The Tennessean succinctly. “Until then, like Hank Cochran said, I’m living for a song.”
Jamey’s last album was a 2012 tribute to the late Hank Cochran, who was recently named the Country Music Hall of Fame’s newest inductee under the songwriting category. But his last album of original music was the double LP The Guitar Song released way back in September of 2010. For someone primarily known as a songwriter, the screeching halt to Johnson’s output has created an unwanted vacuum in the listening habits of many of his fans.
Johnson first explained that he was in the midst of label problems in February of 2013. “Financially speaking, they treat me worse than they ever did the Dixie Chicks,” Johnson told Rolling Stone. “I feel pretty used by the music industry, in that my contracts are written in such a way that I don’t get paid … I wish I could tell you that I am writing. I’m not. I wish I could tell you I’m gonna go home next week and record another album. It’s not likely to happen. We haven’t reached such a gridlock that we can’t continue to do work with them in the future. But we can’t do anything right now until that gets resolved.”
In January Johnson spoke about the matter on stage in St. Petersburg, FL, but instead of clearing things up, it seemed to further complicate the matter.
“Last time we did a show without a record deal was ’06. Tonight’s our first show without a record deal. And somehow we’re still on the same label. We just didn’t have nowhere else to go. They set it up where now we just don’t have to stay. And here’s one for all of our friends back at Mercury Records in Nashville, Tennessee.”
In May, Saving Country Music reached out to Johnson’s label to see if his contract status could be determined, and Mercury not only confirmed that Johnson was no longer signed to the label, but the lady who answered the phone had no idea who Jamey Johnson was.
Peter Cooper in Wednesday’s interview with Jamey wasn’t able to ascertain anything more from Johnson. “I’d have to contact three managers, and some lawyers and all kinds of people to come up with a reasonable answer for that,” Johnson said. “Contracts are hard to read. Attorneys are hard to get on the phone. But if you’re in a situation where you’re supposed to be making money and you’re not, buddy, it’s up to you whether you quit or not … We play our instruments, and we have our time, and when we’re done we go visit with people until everybody’s too tired to talk anymore, and then we leave. Then we come back and do it again the next time.”
In other words people, don’t hold your breath.