"I didn't think the best approach would be to go with a traditional, linear autobiography," Farrar says. "My life isn't that interesting, for one. I wanted to focus on specific experiences that were unique to my life that maybe didn't happen to anyone else. If it's impressionistic along the way, that's fine too. When I sat down to write, it was cognitive medicine, making sense of the past, and the over-arching subject matter often came back to my father, his influence and encouragement to get involved in music. Not to leave my mother out of that; she did a lot of the nuts and bolts work of teaching."

Farrar has learned his lessons well, be they as a storyteller or a musician. You'd be hard pressed to name another rock artist or rock band that could make country music as gorgeous and genuine as Farrar and Son Volt have made on Honky Tonk.

"As I started writing the songs, I wanted to dive into the honky-tonk aesthetic," Farrar says, "but I didn't want to be limited by the parameters of that sound. The first song is more Cajun; the song 'Livin' On' is more reminiscent of Solomon Burke than Merle Haggard. Sometimes the songs would want to go in a different direction, but they'd still fall under this umbrella of elemental American music.

"I think having a clearer aesthetic and thematic focus, knowing that this is going to have a heartbreak-style lyrical content, and working within that framework and that lexicon, it allowed the songwriting to flow, perhaps, more easily than some of the other records I've done. There was less being self-analytical about any of it. It's honky-tonk."

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