Los Coast Goes Country in Covering Gillian Welch’s Ode to Elvis Presley
“This has dramatically upended the lives of musicians”
By Kahron Spearman,
4:20PM, Wed. May 6, 2020
Today, Los Coast premieres “Elvis Presley Blues,” a genre-shifting cover of Americana icon Gillian Welch's heartfelt 2001 composition. The stirring, experimental single featuring local folk quartet Ley Line is the Austin psych-soul crew’s first foray into country. Singer Trey Privott checked in about the band and himself during this time of crisis.
Austin Chronicle: How are you coping generally with the semi-lockdown around COVID-19? How’s your family dealing?
Trey Privott: I’m dealing with everything relatively well. One of my most reliable and damning qualities is I feel most comfortable seeing things as they are rather than how they should be, so I’ve had to deal with anxiety for a big chunk of my life. It’s taken me years to learn to deal with it, so isolation isn’t anything new to me.
I stopped drinking alcohol and going out to socialize entirely at the beginning of 2020. I started staying home a lot then. I think being on tour started to take a toll, so it was just time for a break. When I feel out of rhythm, it’s a good idea to take a break until I start feeling better.
The most stressful part of the COVID-19 outbreak, though, has been how it directly puts my family at risk. My parents own a medical practice, where my father is a physician and my mother manages his office. They’ve remained healthy thus far, so I’ve been lucky there.
I’ve started praying a lot more for my family and friends. I don’t think I was doing stuff like that even last year. This year has really taught me who and what is essential.
I grew up following my dad around hospitals and overhearing these tragic stories about the health care system failing less privileged people, so a lot of those stories I’ve been reading online haven’t been surprising. I think this will be a huge turning point in world history, and our understanding of how vital our health and medical professionals are.
AC: Is the band managing to record at all in the duration? Any plans for a follow-up album to Samsara?
TP: Yes, we are. [Band co-leader and guitarist] John [Courtney] and I both have our own at-home recording setups where we can jot down different ideas and demos to come back to. We’ve always regularly sent little segments and concepts back and forth, so that hasn’t changed too much.
So, we’ve already started working on our follow-up, but we’re just in the early stages. We’ve met once with our producer and engineer to start work, but it’s mostly just been a lot of pre-production, writing, and home recording. We want to get into film as well.
We're looking forward to getting back out on the road in the future.
AC: How has the pandemic altered your routines and workload?
TP: It’s really strengthened a lot of aspects of our creative life. I’ve had a lot of friends who echoed the same sentiments. Up until about November of last year, we were playing a lot and got caught up.
Touring is grueling and it was time to rest, so in a way, this break has been necessary. When we got home from one stretch of our tour, it was apparent that we were experiencing burn out, and we didn’t really have a plan for the future. My friendship with John is rooted in our watching each other’s back, and not losing sight of our goals.
We push each other musically to be our best.
AC: What are you doing to maintain your spirit in all of this? Has it changed your writing?
TP: I do a lot of positive self-talk, praying, more exercising than usual, meditation, and dense reading to keep my brain preoccupied. There’s a lot of scary stuff on social media; I do my best to keep all that in perspective and take it with a grain of salt.
I'm currently reading this book called The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene, which has taught me to accept a lot of natural human tendencies that we never really moved past as a society but happen in circuits over and over throughout history.
I’ve had to do a lot of soul-searching to understand how we got here as a society. I've been journaling almost every day, so I'm positive those notes will become the lyrical content for some upcoming releases this year. It'd be practically impossible to ignore.
I’ve tried writing love songs, but even those seem to reference what's going on in society. It’s been good to get a lot of the anxiety and stress out through writing it all down.
AC: This has dramatically upended the lives of musicians. How has it changed the outlook of the band at this point?
TP: It’s changed what it means for us to be musicians. I think most musicians are more in control of their work than they’d previously thought. A lot of acts are going straight to their fanbase for support, which I think is cool. Fans decide what they want to hear.
A lot of people are pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and persevering through e-commerce, streaming, and video content. I don’t think it’s the end-all, but it’s proven to be a suitable place holder to get the songs out to fans.
AC: Of course, this virus has disproportionately affected people of color, particularly Latino and Black people. I don’t have a hard question here, but I’m interested in your thoughts as a Black man and a human.
TP: The reason that I feel COVID-19 has affected the Black and brown community so hard is because there is a disproportionate amount of resources allocated for poorer communities, which are predominantly Black and brown. Also, people who are living paycheck to paycheck don't have the privilege of staying home from work.
Whenever we face a crisis, Black men are negatively and disproportionately affected. A shelter-at-home order becomes increasingly difficult, in these circumstances, when doing so jeopardizes your shelter and people in it.
There is also a justified mistrust of the government and the health care system within these communities. People of color historically do not trust the health care system based on how it has treated them. Men of color normally don’t go to the doctor or have been taught to push through pain, since acknowledging pain is a sign of weakness.
The problem is that COVID-19 isn’t something you can just push through.
Hopefully, what this pandemic has taught us is the importance of everyone’s lives and everyone’s jobs. We need our doctors. We need our nurses. We need our cashiers. We need our manufacturers. We need our janitors. We need our teachers.
A community will not function optimally without everyone working together. This is an opportunity to make needed changes and do better as a community.