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Grammy-winning Americana artist Jason Isbell has always maintained a tough exterior, seemingly in a constant state of standing up for a form of music that doesn’t always fit comfortably within the ever-changing state of the country genre.

But sometimes, he stops and admits he hurts, too.

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“I went through period of time between getting sober and having a child where I wasn’t scared of a lot,” he says. “Now, the whole world is a sharp object. With a 2-year-old daughter, everything is terrifying. I start worrying about the world, the level of aggression that people exhibit these days. I feel the world is getting meaner. I don’t feel we live in a worse country than we did 100 years ago — we’re progressing, but slower than I’d like, and lately we’ve fallen a few rungs on that ladder.”

The revealing statement stemmed from a question that the Chicago Tribune asked during a recent interview about his song “Anxiety,” which is featured on his current album “The Nashville Sound.” Yet, his answer revealed so much more than just an explanation about a piece of music.

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“Are these problems going to get better,” Jason asked. “The older you get, you start to think if you can’t control something, you should try hard not to worry about it. The problem is figuring out what you can control and what you can’t. Things get less scary when you face it. I’m happy that, as a culture, we’re facing problems like race, class, gender, more so than in previous decades. That’s all good. But some of those monsters in the closet are real.”

A country traditionalist opens up about the anxiety that won’t go away Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Americana Music Association
Tricia Despres is the contributing editor for Rare Country, based out of Chicago, Illinois. Join the conversation on Twitter at @RareCountry. We would love to see y’all there.
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