Five Questions With Belle & Sebastian’s Stevie Jackson

On July 3, Stevie Jackson, guitarist for everyone’s favorite Scottish musical feelings collective Belle & Sebastian, stepped out on his own to release his debut solo effort, (I Can’t Get No) Stevie Jackson. The record, which features Jackson and a backing band made up of members of The Company, Trembling Bells, The Pastels, and The New Pornographers, features a dozen songs that show off what Jackson, who has worked with The Vaselines, Russian Red, Bill Wells Trio, and God Help The Girl, is capable of on his own. We caught up with him to find out what made him strike out solo, how Belle & Sebastian fans might react to this music, and what’s next for his solo career.

How is it you decided to make a solo album?
It started when Belle & Sebastian, the band I’m in, had done an album called The Life Pursuit in 2006. It had been going for about 10 years at that point, and after that record there was a feeling that we were going to leave it for a while. Not break up, but just do something else for a little while. So I just had time on my hands and I started to get involved in various things—there’s an artist called Nicola Atkinson and we started doing work together. And there were a couple of friends, Gary Thom and Roy Moller with whom I’d get together every week and just make music for fun. There were other various projects going on as well. That seemed to generate a few songs, and I decided to record them—there wasn’t a sense of trying to make a statement, it was just having a few sessions for a laugh. A lot of the record was recorded in 2009 or 2010. And then Belle & Sebastian started up again and I missed my window, but then I recorded more songs last year and that seemed to finish it.

Does having been in a prolific band make releasing a solo album easier or are you still nervous about putting out albums?
Being in the group might help because a few Belle & Sebastian fans might check it out. I don’t really feel nervous about it. To be honest, it sort of feels like it’s kind of in the past to a degree. Making records always feels a bit like that. Once it’s mastered and you’ve done the cover and all that, you’re already on to the next thing.

For people who are familiar with Belle & Sebastian but aren’t sure what to expect from your solo work, how would you describe this record?
There are a lot of story songs, to a degree. They’re about various things; there are a couple of songs about movie directors, there are a couple of songs that are maybe more biographical, but I don’t go in for those so much. The songs with directors are a classic example of something that’s almost an exercise. Whenever you work in a way that’s more abstract, your own personality comes out a bit anyway.

So that covers the lyrics. What about the music?
The actual sound of it is pop music, I guess. It was recorded a lot more rough and ready than a Belle & Sebastian record, the process was more like getting a few friends in a room and recording as I’m teaching them the songs. It’s not very polished. For me, Belle & Sebastian is the sound of Stuart’s voice. So this feels different, but I don’t know if an objective viewpoint would differ. It’s probably not a million miles away.

What’s next for you?
The next thing is probably just writing more songs. Again, the songs have been generated by doing projects. I wrote some music for… Have you heard of a band called the Hidden Cameras? There’s a girl named Maggie MacDonald and we wrote some music together for a play she wrote. That’s generated a few songs and I’ve been thinking about recording them. And we’re developing that a little bit, trying to get the play on again. I’ll also be doing some live shows as well, I’ve got a bunch of guys to play with so we’ll be doing that. 

(I Can’t Get No) Stevie Jackson

Fans of Belle & Sebastian’s gleeful Glaswegian sadness will be overjoyed (a paradox!) by the news that Stevie Jackson, the band’s guitarist, is striking out on his own. The album, out July 3, entitled in a Jaggerian tone (I Can’t Get No) Stevie Jackson, is a poppy meditation on many of the same issues about which Belle & Sebastian murmured, but the question as to where all the hooks came from has been settled: it was Stevie all along. In the run-up to the release, Mr. Jackson released this video, which combines elements of Pavement’s "Cut Your Hair," delicious toasties, and more bowl cuts than a Monkees movie.