You don’t really know Tim Easton

Before Friday's album release show at Natalie's Grandview, the Columbus ex-pat and Nashville songwriter reflects on recovery, divorce and more

Joel Oliphint
Columbus Alive
Tim Easton

“You don’t really know me. You really know next to nothing about me.” 

Those are the first words Tim Easton sings on his new album, You Don’t Really Know Me, which comes out Friday, Aug. 27, on Black Mesa Records and kicks off with the title track — a loose, full-band, folk-rock tune with a Neil Young backbeat. Easton, a Nashville-via-Columbus singer, songwriter and guitarist, doesn’t leave listeners hanging, though. He wants to take you by the hand and lead you to a comfy spot around the campfire to tell you the Tale of Tim Easton. 

“I wanted to tell a story about my family in a song, and also address some of the things that maybe someone would have thought about me from the mistakes I made in my life, being a drunken buffoon in my youth,” Easton said this week by phone, just after emerging from an annual trek into the Alaskan wilderness where he performed at a small festival in an old mining town inside Denali National Park.  

Easton led off his Alaska set with “Festival Song,” a fan favorite he wrote years ago while backstage at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. It’s a song that captures “the feeling when you leave a festival and you're all emotional,” Easton said. “There's more to the festival than just going to see a band. It's a lot about the camaraderie and hanging out with friends and hopefully some good parking lot jams.” 

“Festival Song” will likely show up during Easton’s forthcoming solo performance at Natalie’s Grandview on Friday, Aug. 27 (proof of vaccination or negative COVID test required; Easton will busk at Lost Weekend Records from 1-2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 28.) The song even found its way onto You Don’t Really Know Me, though most of the album’s 10 tracks were written during the pandemic quarantine era of 2020, then recorded off and on over several months with some Nashville pros and producers Brad Jones and Robin Eaton. “It's a loose live band in the studio. What you hear is what you get,” Easton said.

To know Easton is to know that he’s in recovery. “One of the things that helped me shift my path is not being able to drive to a gig in the next town because I just couldn't make it,” he said. “That shifted me to saying, 'Well, what do I want to do? Do I want to play music or do I want to get hammered with some people in some town?'"

More:Even in 2020, Tim Easton feels lucky

But Easton said his recovery involves a lot more than not drinking. “I did go through a painful divorce, and now I'm on the other side of it and really happy and in therapy, which helped me accept my role in what went wrong in both my relationships and my career,” he said. “Brad Jones and Robin Eaton also helped me push aside all the quote-unquote divorce songs — all the angry, finger-pointing songs — and focus more on something positive to uplift people.” 

These days, after navigating a pandemic for more than a year, everyone is in some form of recovery, Easton said. But it’s a lifelong process the songwriter forces himself to approach one day at a time — a concept that inspired album track “Speed Limit.” “Speed limit is 24 hours, any more and I’d go out of my mind/I can’t worry about tomorrow, yesterday is just a waste of time,” Easton sings.

“Quite honestly, I don't know what's going to happen between now and the day my album comes out. Charlie Watts passed away this morning. Who knows what's going to happen in this world?” Easton said. “I'm hoping that tomorrow I get to go pick up my daughter from school and have dinner with her. That's my next big goal.”