Michael Jason Isbell (born February 1, 1979) is an American singer-songwriter and guitarist from Green Hill, Alabama, in Lauderdale County. He is best known for his solo career and as a former member of the Drive-By Truckers for six years, from 2001 to 2007.
Isbell was born in Green Hill, Alabama, two miles from the Alabama/Tennessee state line, the son of interior designer mother, Angela Hill Barnett, and house painter, Mike Isbell.
Isbell’s mother was only 17 years old (and his father 19 years old) when he was born,and is the subject of a song, “Children of Children.”Isbell’s parents divorced, and he has two much younger half-siblings, Chantry Barnett and Emily Isbell.
Isbell grew up in rural North Alabama. His grandparents lived on a farm down the road, next to the school that Isbell attended and looked after him while his parents were at work. His grandfather and uncle taught him to play various musical instruments, including the mandolin when he was 6 years old as it was easier for him to grip as a small child. They enjoyed gospel, bluegrass, and the Grand Ole Opry. In high school he played trumpet and French horn. Isbell’s family would get together and play music every week, sometimes twice a week, which Isbell said has a lot to do with where he comes from and the family’s focus on music. Isbell’s paternal grandfather, who came from a musical family, was a Pentecostal preacher who played guitar in church. He spent his childhood attending both the Pentecostal church and the stricter Church of Christ, which permitted only singing (no musical instruments).