Singer/songwriter’s band Spain comes to Jammin Java

He’s recorded seven full-length albums, had his song covered by Johnny Cash, and his father is the late jazz bassist Charlie Haden. Despite success and celebrity ties, Josh Haden of the rock band Spain is humble.

“I really don’t have a favorite venue other than the type of venue that will have us play,” said Haden, who will perform at Jammin Java on Monday.

Haden formed Spain in the early ’90s and began experimenting with sounds that contradicted his adolescent notions of songwriting.

“I had a habit of thinking about songwriting in terms of the punk rock ideal of really loud and distorted guitars and very busy drums,” Haden said. “I loved punk rock back then and I still love it, but I wanted to start a new project that was the antithesis.”

The result was a collection of nine “serious” songs with slow tempos and minimal drums that comprise the band’s first album, “The Blue Moods of Spain,” released in 1995.

“I started writing songs as if I was a country or gospel songwriter,” Haden said. “I wanted to write a song about a guy who lost everything and his last hope to stay alive was calling out to God for redemption. That’s how I wrote this song called ‘Spiritual.’”

When Johnny Cash featured his rendition of “Spiritual” on his 1996 covers album “Unchained,” along with Chris Cornell’s “Rusty Cage” and Beck’s “Rowboat,” the news was an inevitable surprise for Haden.

“If anyone has one of their biggest inspirations cover one of their songs it’s incredible, but there was an added poetic dimension because our families were connected,” Haden said.

“When Rick Rubin called me and said, ‘Hey, Johnny Cash is in studio right now singing your song. Come check it out,’ I don’t think he knew our history.”

When Haden’s father Charlie played country music in the ’40s and ’50s in the Haden Family Band, he had an encounter with June Carter Cash. During a performance featuring both the Haden Family Band and Carter Family, Haden said his father sat on Carter Cash’s lap while she sang.

Haden’s family continues to achieve musically. Three of his sisters are professional musicians, touring with Foo Fighters, The Decemberists, Silversun Pickups, and The Rentals, among others. Spain’s 2014 release “Sargent Place” features performances by two of his three sisters.

“When everyone’s a musician it’s hard to get everyone in town at once,” Haden said.

“We’re big supporters of each other, and whenever Spain’s in L.A., I invite them to come sing with me.”

“Sargent Place” abides by the slow, blues-inspired sound of the band’s previous albums, and includes motifs that compel Haden to make music.

“Life and death. Sex, lust, spirituality, hunger, the need for connection, and where does that inability to connect originate?” Haden said, listing the topics that inspire him. “Something that peels back the layers and asks, ‘How would we live if we never took the path of sustaining ourselves through an oil-based economy,’ and I don’t mean to get political.”

Although Haden released a solo album in 2007 called “Devoted,” and has recorded stripped-down blues songs under the moniker Dead Sea Scrolls, he said he prefers playing in Spain.

“One of the beautiful things about making art is collaboration,” Haden said. “Your vision comes forth in ways you may not have imagined.”

Haden said his main focus during Spain’s tour is to get enough sleep so he can perform exceptionally for the audience. Currently, Haden regards the possibility of a solo tour as wishful thinking.

“I’m not a very good guitar player. I don’t know if I’m good enough to actually tour with just me and the guitar,” Haden said. “My voice is not that important, but I’m trying to write music to tap into fundamental feelings that people experience every day.”

Morgan Fecto
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