Jason Isbell on the strain of making his new HBO documentary: “It was a painful process”

“Somebody follows you around and gets on your goddamn nerves for months”

Jason Isbell onstage

Photo: Erika Goldring / FilmMagic

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Grammy-winning guitarist Jason Isbell is the subject of a forthcoming HBO documentary, Jason Isbell: Running With Our Eyes Closed – it promises to be an unvarnished and at times unflinchingly honest account of the songwriter’s creative process, and the strain that puts on his relationships outside of the studio.

Now, in an exclusive except from the forthcoming 13th edition of Martin: The Journal Of Acoustic Guitars, Isbell revealed how difficult the process was for him both in the moment and when watching it back.

“It was tough because it wasn’t like a promotional thing,” he explains. “Y’know there’s two kinds of documentaries for musicians – there’s the one you pay for, and you get final cut and it’s not very good, but it gets all your fans excited! And there’s the kind we made, which is like, somebody follows you around and gets on your goddamn nerves for months and films you fighting with your friends and your wife.

“So I think it’s really good… it’s just… it was a painful process.”

The new documentary, which is part of HBO’s Music Box series, is directed by Sam Jones, who previously helmed the critically acclaimed 2002 Wilco documentary, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco. It was filmed during the writing and recording of Isbell’s 2020 album, Reunions. Isbell also revealed to the Martin Journal that while most of the documentary was completed before the pandemic struck, the production didn’t remain completely unscathed.

“It was almost finished right at the moment when the lockdown happened,” he tells the Martin Journal. “But we had to have a camera here – like a big movie camera – and I had to go through the process of learning how to operate the damn thing, and filming myself. It was wild! But I think it’s good! I think there’s actually some substance to it, so I was happy about that.”

Jason Isbell: Running With Our Eyes Closed premieres on HBO on 7 April, while Issue 13 of the Martin Journal is available next month – visit martinguitar.com/martin-journal to find out more. 

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