Jason Isbell appeared on MSNBC over the weekend where he defended his recent decision to require all his concert attendees to present a negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination. Since announcing the decision last week, the singer-songwriter has drawn criticism from fans and even fellow musicians.
The interview began with Isbell addressing criticism he drew from another musician online who called the artist “bourgeois” for requiring fans to get a free vaccine or take a free test to come to his show. Though Isbell had already buried the pop-country singer on Twitter, he managed to fit in a brief, backhanded swipe while also remaining focused on the topic of discussion.
“I think it’s up to all of us to do what we can just to keep the music business running because we’re gonna get shut down again real soon if we don’t start doing this,” Isbell told MSNBC’s Stephanie Rhule. “I don’t understand the elitist thing, maybe that guy has a harder time having people come to his shows. … It doesn’t feel elitist to me, it feels a little bit safer.”
The interview came as the four-time Grammy winner prepared for his third night playing at ACL Live at the Moody Theater in Austin, TX. While Isbell has taken some heat from the public on his recent decision, he said that those in the music industry have welcomed the protocols. While many in the industry have applauded Isbell’s decisions, some venues that receive state funding may be left in a precarious situation if the views of local politicians don’t align with the CDC’s.
“In a lot of cases, some of the venues are receiving state funds and the states are threatening to withhold those funds for places who allow their artists to require proof of a COVID test,” Isbell said. “We’ll just deal with whatever we have to deal with, and if we have to cancel some shows we’ll cancel some shows. And if we get sued, I’ll get up and talk on behalf of the people in the audience.”
Jason Isbell is not the only person adopting required testing/vaccine protocols for upcoming events. In recent days, everyone from Widespread Panic to Bonnaroo to Summerfest have added similar guidelines to upcoming concerts and festivals.
Isbell also pointed out that while the loss of live music during the pandemic was crushing both emotionally as well as financially for many, there are more important factors at play here as case numbers continue to rise across the country.
“We’re not providing something that’s necessarily essential, we’re not giving people healthcare, or food, or shelter,” Isbell said. “We’re trying to entertain folks so I’m not saying anyone has to get a vaccine or a negative test, but if you don’t then you don’t get to come to the show. I think that makes sense.”
In the end, the singer-songwriter echoed the words of the founding fathers in response to those who claim policies like his infringe upon their basic freedoms as United States citizens.
“I’m all for freedom but I think if you’re dead, you don’t have any freedoms at all,” Isbell said. “So 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.”
Watch the full MSNBC interview with Jason Isbell below. For a list of tour dates, head to his website.
Jason Isbell on vaccine requirements at concerts: ‘I’m all for freedom but I think if you’re dead, you don’t have any freedoms at all’