“I ended up with all these songs I knew I needed to write about but at the time [of the breakup] I wasn’t able to express what I wanted to,” he says. “I needed time, but I knew it wasn’t what I wanted the Night Sweats to be.”
In the early stages of planning, he and Swift were talking about making this solo album together, and then a lifetime of alcohol and despair unexpectedly caught up with Swift.
“I guess I wanted to let him know that I recognised his pain and I guess his struggle,” says Rateliff. “I think it’s that same thing that a lot of this deal with, it’s just hard for us to give ourselves space to accept. Sometimes there is an unexplainable brokenness that we have and we don’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable to it or even be vulnerable enough to let people know that’s how we feel.”
Rather than say Otis Redding or any other classic soul man, the strongest influence on this album appears to be that purveyor of beautiful and often beautifully sad pop, Harry Nilsson. Friend and drinking buddy of John Lennon and Keith Moon, possessor of a gently persuasive voice, in songs like One, Without You and Everybody’s Talkin’, Nilsson always seemed to have an undercurrent of hurt that no amount of soothing, or wine, could resolve, and yet offered solace to the listener.
“I think you hear something in his voice in some of those songs that shows his own vulnerability. I don’t know that we have a lot of singers like that now,” says the Nillson fan.
And while Rateliff wouldn’t put himself in that category, it’s fair to say that if And It’s Still Alright is a breakup record, it’s one of the very rare ones that comes without any obvious bitterness, but rather a search for something better.
“It’s still hard – nobody really wins in that situation – and sometimes you feel like you are just walking away like a beat dog. But I guess the point of the record is accepting that we’re still here, that I am still here, whatever those hardships are, and trying to find something good out of all of this.”
That attitude though, probably provides the most direct link back to the Night Sweats whose brief had always been to make the good out of all of this.
“When we performed those songs, we performed with the same intent and excitement of a Night Sweats show,” Rateliff says, knowing it’s a bit of a tease for Australian audiences whose shows were cancelled.
For now we’ll have to take his word for it. But if we need comforting, Rateliff is offering.