In the 2018 movie A Star Is Born, Bradley Cooper plays Jackson Maine, an alcoholic rock star on the declining side of his career. A few times in the film, Cooper sings “Maybe It’s Time,” a lovely and contemplative acoustic country-rock song. Jason Isbell wrote “Maybe It’s Time” for the movie. Today, he’s released his demo version of it.
In the hands of the man who wrote it, “Maybe It’s Time” sounds very much like a Jason Isbell song, which is exactly what it always was. It’s weird to hear this song that’s become a bit of a cultural touchstone rendered as a simple, conversational Isbell tune, but it’s great, too. Isbell and his band the 400 Unit recently released their new album Reunions, and it’s great. “Maybe It’s Time” works as a very cool bonus track.
Isbell’s solo-acoustic “Maybe It’s Time,” recorded with producer Dave Cobb, is out today on Bandcamp, since this is one of those days when Bandcamp is forgoing its share of the music it sells. Isbell has paired “Maybe It’s Time,” with another unreleased song called “Alabama Sky.” But you have to buy “Alabama Sky” to hear it. You can year “Maybe It’s Time” below, along with a couple of the Bradley Cooper versions of the track.
We recently interviewed Isbell for our We’ve Got A File On You series. Here’s what Isbell had to say about giving his song to A Star Is Born:
I had just finished recording The Nashville Sound, and then [Dave] Cobb comes around with this movie he’s working on and he says he needs songs for this movie and feels like I’d be perfect for it. My first instinct was, “I don’t have the mental acumen left to do something like this. My brain is exhausted and I don’t feel like messing with that right now.” He told me what the movie was and I thought, “This sounds like a terrible idea, why do they keep remaking movies over and over, are there no more movies? Are there no more stories?” So I was just kind of grumpy and irritated by all of it.
Luckily my wife said, “Maybe you should reconsider this, because I think you have some old songs that could work on and bring in that would be pretty perfect for this, and I think they’re kind of counting on you for it, and if they’re counting on you for it, that means they’re going to treat you pretty well.” Well, OK, maybe so. Maybe my participation in this wouldn’t be tertiary, it’d be something that’d actually be important to these people. So I went through my songs, and found “Maybe It’s Time.” I had already started working on the song and I moved some things around a bit, brought it in and sang it to Dave and he was just floored. “Oh this is perfect! This is perfect!” The whole time I’m thinking, “Yeah, it’s perfect but they’re gonna make me change most of it.” Because that’s how they always do. But they didn’t. They didn’t change a thing.
I met Bradley [Cooper]. He came to a show, hung out, talked to me a little bit about what his ideas were. It started to make sense. Then the movie came out and I saw it, and it was good. In the meantime, he had sent me a demo of him singing the song, and I was afraid to listen to it. I had never heard him sing before, and I thought, “This is going to be awful.” This is going to be like Wolverine singing in Les Mis or something. And I thought, “I’ve already gotten so far in the process, what happens if I don’t like it? I’m not gonna be able to tell this guy, ‘No, I don’t want anything to do with this.’” And is that even legal at that point? Is it just gonna be something I hear and hate it and have to tolerate for the rest of my life?
So I took a flight across country and when I got off I was like, “OK, I gotta go ahead and listen to this now.” And it was good! He did a good job. He sounded like a country singer. I texted him like, “This is great, thank you for doing this, I appreciate you not changing anything,” and all that. I didn’t know until when he was doing interviews for the movie that that was a big deal. He told a story that the most tense moment for him was waiting on me to approve his singing of the song. I had no idea. I thought it was going to be like, “This songwriter doesn’t like it, but we’re going for it anyway.” But turns out it was pretty important to him, and then when I saw the movie I realized there was more of me and my story in that movie than I had previously thought there was going to be.
You can buy the “Maybe It’s Time” demo and “Alabama Sky” at Bandcamp.