NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- As producers are known to do, Jay Joyce called Jakob Dylan to discuss plans before they were scheduled to start recording The Wallflowers' first album in seven years.
Joyce was surprised when Dylan said he really didn't have anything.
"We had a couple of songs, nothing but a bunch of stuff on a laptop that I said, `This might sound like this. This might sound like this,'" Dylan recalled.
"But they were lyrics," Joyce said in mock protest.
"I was like, `This is what I got,'" Dylan, 42, said with a laugh.
The singer and producer got together recently in Nashville to talk about "Glad All Over," the first Wallflowers' album since 2005's "Rebel, Sweetheart." This time around the Grammy winners tried something different as Dylan – no longer comfortable with his lead songwriting role – took a step back and tried to blend into the band.
In the past, he'd shown up at sessions with demos and strong feelings. This time, there were no demos or completed lyrics; just ideas the group – which includes longtime members Rami Jaffee on keyboard, Greg Richling on bass and guitarist Stuart Mathis with new drummer Jack Irons – took and ran with.
"If you (pre-write), those songs come with an implied feeling, groove, tempo," Dylan said. "They can limit the bass player. They can limit the drums. You've already got your vocal locked in and you're not going to budge. So it can be stifling. You realize you're bolted in with what the song already was. This lets the band lead, lets the band get out and front, and I can find a way to fit in the opposite way."
"It could have gone horribly wrong, man," Joyce said. "It was sort of fun. That's what attracted me to it: `Oh, (expletive), this is scary!'"
What emerged is a writhing, rhythm-heavy album that has Joyce's grimy fingerprints all over it.
The rising Nashville producer known for crafting hits with artists as varied as Eric Church, Cage the Elephant and Little Big Town first met the band when T Bone Burnett flew him to Los Angeles to play guitar on their 1996 debut, "Bringing Down the Horse."
When Joyce's name came up, Dylan jumped. He felt like Joyce would know where they were coming from and could play guitar on the album. "Plus," he joked, "I don't like to meet anyone new."
"I was just a band member," Joyce said. "My job in this situation was first of all be part of the band. So I was worried about my guitar playing. I was worried about being fired from the band."
Joyce also kept the band on track, wrapping recording in a month. His presence helped Dylan achieve his goal of having five guys in a room – and only five guys – working out the songs.
"I wanted to keep it simple," Dylan said. "I knew when we got here we weren't going to be about perfect chord patterns and structures. It wasn't going to be that type of songwriting. It was going to be knocking the things out on the run. After this many years of not doing this, if we were going to do it we just didn't want it to be heavy and didn't need any ballads or mid-tempo things. We just wanted to have fun."
That ethos shows up several places on the album, but perhaps nowhere better than "Reboot the Mission." Featuring a guitar-and-vocal cameo from The Clash's Mick Jones, "Reboot the Mission" is funky, wide-open and a little loopy with self-referential lyrics that refer to the band's days in the studio.
Songs like that prove Dylan's faith in his leap was justified. Looking back, he says he can see why everyone was nervous, especially the people paying for the sessions. But he's convinced he did the right thing.
"What stuck in my mind is I just couldn't imagine Billy Gibbons sitting at home, writing songs and making demos, you know?" Dylan said of the ZZ Top frontman. "I can imagine they hit the studio, they bring what they got and they just jam and they make songs up."