Jake Ybarra Talks About Texas Writers Clark, Van Zandt and Crowell and His Old Gibson

Texas-born, South Carolina-raised Jake Ybarra is making a name for himself in Nashville as a strong up-and coming writer and vocalist. His new album, Something In The Water, drops next month, with a track list of 10 songs all penned by the artist himself.

Ybarra is from a musical family and sang in church as a child, and began to play music in earnest as a teenage rocker. But when he was in college he began to discover the genius of the singer-songwriters of his native Texas. “I didn’t really start getting into lyrics until my sophomore year of college,” he said, “and at that point I became kind of obsessed. I got my classes done, but writing became my focus. I found people like Jason Isbell and the Turnpike Troubadours but I knew they weren’t the first ones. So I found Bob Dylan and Kris Kristofferson, and then I knew I had to find the guys between those two. So I found Townes (Van Zandt) and Guy (Clark), Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, Richard Dobson – those guys kind of became my heroes.”

Ybarra’s latest single, from his upcoming album, is “A Whole Lot to Remember,” and the song definitely brings Crowell’s work to mind from the days when he had an unprecedented string of hit singles on the country charts.

“Now that I think of it,” Ybaraa said, “it may sound kind of similar to ‘Ain’t Livin’ Long Like This,’ I may phrase like a Texan. My dad is a fifth-generation Texan and we would spend a lot of our summers down there. I think it’s from listening to all that, from listening to those guys, that I maybe ended up phrasing more like them than like a Carolina guy.”

“With Townes, I was amazed with everything he was writing,” he continued. “It seemed so very lyrical and poetic. Every once in a while something like that will fall out of me. But with Guy, more than Townes, it was like, these are words that I know, these are metaphors that I understand, saying a lot and meaning a lot in a very basic way, using basic words. That’s what I really appreciated about Guy.”

After making a few trips to Music City, and recording his album in Franklin at the legendary Castle recording studio, Ybarra packed up and moved to Nashville last fall. “I came up and recorded in June of last year,” he said. “After recording the album and being able to sit in a room with a bunch of seasoned players, it was like, Man, I really need to be up here. I really love my little town in South Carolina, but it was time to make the jump.”

Many younger singer-songwriters play acoustic guitars by Taylor, the iconic Martin company, or a Texas brand like Collings. But Ybarra plays and writes on a vintage axe that many players would treasure. “My brothers got together and got it for me,” he said, “it’s a ‘61 Gibson J-45. It’s pretty beat up but it sounds amazing. I put a (under the bridge) K&K pickup into it, I didn’t want to do a lot drilling into it. But I need to get a road guitar that can afford to get beat up, because this one is super-sentimental since my brothers gave it to me.” 

You can follow Ybarra’s adventures in Music City at jakeybarra.com.

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