Jason Isbell has a way with words, as he demonstrated on his 2020 album Reunions, and which he proved again on a new appearance on MSNBC. In conversation with Stephanie Ruhle, he explained his decision to require proof of vaccination at his concerts, saying, “If you’re dead, you don’t have any freedoms at all.”

The quip came as part of a larger conversation about the resurgent threat of COVID-19 sparked by the delta variant. The singer-songwriter said he hadn’t received much pushback: “All the response I’ve gotten from people in the business has been positive, because they understand that we could go back to not working at all. And a lot of these smaller venues, they aren’t going to be able to reopen if they go through another round of shutdowns.”

As he explained it, most venues and industry professionals would like to require vaccination, but “the problem is, they’re just getting so much pushback from some of the governors of certain states who want to kowtow to their political base and try to make people think that their freedom is being encroached upon. I’m all for freedom,” he said, “but I think if you’re dead, you don’t have any freedoms at all. It’s probably important to stay alive before you start questioning your liberty. It’s life and then it’s liberty and then it’s the pursuit of happiness. Those are in order of priority.”


Afterwards he took to Twitter, reposting the interview and adding a new comment. “We’re now requiring proof of vaccination or a current negative test to attend all our shows, indoors or out,” he wrote. “If the venue won’t allow that, we won’t play.” Check out a clip of the interview below.

Update – August 10th: Isbell has canceled a concert scheduled in Houston after the venue’s owner “was not willing to comply with the band’s updated Health and Safety standards.”

Isbell’s last album, Reunions, was one of our favorites of 2020. In recent months he’s covered Metallica and Bleachers, as well as contributing guest vocals to Adia Victoria’s upcoming LP A Southern Gothic. He’s also branching out into film, and will be appearing in Martin Scorsese’s next movie Killers of the Flower Moon.


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