This video was filmed by Neilson Hubbard and Joshua Britt. They make beautiful work and have worked with Jason Isbell, John Prine and Lucinda Williams. It was a sweltering day when we filmed. We all but melted and my thrift store shoes dug a raw hole in the back of my right heel.
Picott shares a personal essay about his latest album:
“Paper Hearts And Broken Arrows comes out of the air like all collections of songs. I challenge anyone to explain the lightning that strikes when a new song is born. You catch a glimpse of the ghost, then chase it down until you’ve rendered your best sketch. Although the pandemic emptied out the wheelbarrow of my life as I knew it; I was simultaneously gifted with enormous amounts of time to dig in the dirt pile left behind. Which is what I did – I love the work. While not being able to tour I conjured several projects that kept my boat floating in the choppy water. I recorded “one of a kind” personal “best of” albums for people and I re-recorded all the songs I’ve written with my long time co-writer – Slaid Cleaves.
Both projects were successful and engaging yet they were side projects to the task at hand – the songs that would make up Paper Hearts & Broken Arrows. This latest album had time to marinate, to simmer and to chisel in the way I wanted – with the luxury of time. I wrote roughly twenty-five songs in the year and a half the album took shape. Some of those missing songs are among the strongest I’ve written and will be on the next album but I wanted Paper Hearts to feel a certain way and so I killed my darlings as they say. Most songwriters wil tell you their newest creation is their best. How can you say different once you have the art in front of you and the job is now to get it into listener’s hands? I’m proud of all the albums I’ve recorded for various reasons. Some have held up better over time. Some have drifted out of the lane and have one wheel in the gutter.
Paper Hearts And Broken Arrows is an album with no filler. It is lean. There are twelve songs, carefully chosen to make the album feel a particular way. It is lush and enormous sounding and at the same time raw as live-edge woodwork. That is all intentional. This was in fact the mission. My voice has changed over the years; with age, a few thousand shows, damage from bad technique and possibly the Jameson’s as well (though I don’t think the Blanton’s hurt it a bit). I’m comfortable with where my voice has landed. It suits the songs better than ever. I’ve always felt like a bit of an old man anyway and so my voice finally caught up.
Paper Hearts & Broken Arrows is a rangy album. There is a song about Sonny Liston’s tragic boxing career and life and a song so intimate and vulnerable, I myself, teared up in the studio when we played it back. There is a song about pure lust as naked as they come and a stomping roaring rocker from the moonshine mountains of Appalachia. There are outlaws, villains, vows of loyalty and pleas to the skies to offer small mercies. In the end the only question to answer is: Did you make the piece of art you wanted to make? Yes. With help from the incredibly intuitive producer Nielson Hubbard and a few ace musicians, we chased these songs down like blue tick hounds on the scent. I don’t know ifPaper Hearts And Broken Arrows is the best album I’ve made but I know it might be.
*My favorite aside: We recorded a gorgeous full-band version of a song titled “Valentine’s Day” and were listening to the playback. I could feel the room deflate slightly – just a subtle shift in the air. We all loved the arrangement. We all said how great it sounded but to a man nobody had that look of triumph. It’s a strange thing that look in the recording studio. There is a confidence to it that’s like running the pool table. “Take that.” It says. Finally I broke. “I think what we have here is an Eagles song where the guy can’t really sing.” Neilson said, “Well how do you want it to sound?” I picked up the guitar and played it slow, quiet and ragged letting my voice crack and creak. He pointed to the door. ‘Yup, that’s better.’”