INTERVIEW: Pokey LaFarge – Playing The Sinclair 07.08.17

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Americana artist Pokey LaFarge has risen in popularity thanks in part to his all encompassing live show that brings concert goers back in time to a simpler era where music was about nothing more than the act on stage and their talent. LaFarge and his band have a lot of that talent.

Pokey LaFarge will bring his stellar live show to The Sinclair in Cambridge, MA on Saturday night for what is sure to be a house rocker. Tickets start at $20 and can be purchased HERE

Last week, we spoke with Pokey via phone about how his career has gone so far and what it takes to curate a good live show.

You’re playing Summerfest tonight but you’re in the middle of your very long summer tour. How have the shows been going so far? 

Just getting started. Yeah shows have been great. It’s been wonderful. Having a good time supporting the record, enjoying playing shows. Enjoying playing the new songs, enjoying traveling. Yeah it’s one big happy family right now.

Perfect, then “Manic Revelations” is your seventh record in pretty much eleven years since your debut record. How long was this one kind of in the making for you?

Well, I started writing the majority of the record in the latter part of 2015 and kind of wrote through the middle of 2016 and started recording in October. Completed it at the end of last year.

And even though you’ve been writing music for so long, I know this record is a bit of a different direction for you. How did that come about in the recording? Was there something really different you tried or is it something that you kind of wanted to do with this record? 

Well, you certainly don’t want to keep writing the same songs. I think it’s important to as an artist, shift perspectives. You want to achieve another perspective in order to get some heightened awareness or a deeper meaning. It’s just a matter of getting that perspective. Whether it’s trying a different instrument. I wrote a few of these songs on the ukele which I had never really done before. Just a different instrument again so a different perspective. You know there’s a lot of different ways to achieve it. Experimenting with traveling, going to different places as a band. . I mean there’s a lot of different things you can do. If you’re writing the same songs, maybe you’re just not getting out something that’s truly honest because it’s not really you. I mean you have to kind of chart your progression through life and you’ll maybe get something that’s more natural. So the key is just write, write, write and then through the writing,  you kind of chart your progression. Kind of see how you’re changing and really through that, you don’t want to force it. You just want things to come to you naturally. So that’s kind of how i write. If you have to work too hard on it, then it’s not worth it. You shouldn’t have to work too hard on anything.

Now, when it comes to these sets, I know for most of the tour you’re headlining but you are playing these festival settings and that kind of thing. How do you go about the headlining set considering you now have seven full length records out? Is it something where you kind of are going to focus on this new record, have you been doing a little bit of each album, how have you been going about the sets? 

We have a pretty small but loyal fan base. There are certain songs they want to hear. They have certainly come to expect some of our older material off our previous records. so yeah you have to speckle that stuff in there and yeah it’s been kind of fun. Shit I’ve been around a while. I’ve written and forgotten more songs then I know now. So it’s a challenge to try and remember and kind of re-rehearse those songs.

Then I wanted to ask you, you’re still relatively young. I believe by looking at social media, you just turned 34 but you have released seven records in about eleven years. When did you first know that this is something that you wanted to pursue? Was there a defining moment for you or is this just something you knew you were always supposed to do?

Yes, because I’m so old now I can’t remember what I was thinking when I was a kid. Well, I know that music for me was something a little bit later on. I know that for me, it was an obsession with baseball at a very young age. I wanted to be a professional baseball player but I realized kind of by my early teens, maybe 13 or 14, that it wasn’t going to work out. At the same time, I had become a serious writer. As serious as you can be at that age and that kind of was  the biggest shift into the arts. From there, I thought I wanted to be a writer and as I started to fall deeper and deeper into what I wanted to be, it just naturally evolved into musicianship. Then songwriting and that kind of stuff. There’s never really been hobbies for me it’s kind of been loves. So when I fall in love with something, that’s completely my thing. I was told at a young age, you don’t strive to become an artist. You either are or you aren’t. So I guess you could say I considered myself an artist from a very young age and I knew it was my only option.

Perfect, you’re playing Summerfest today, you have a huge summer planned for you, you’re touring steadily. What is the focus for you as an artist these next few months? Is it to continue being on the road, recording new music again, what’s the plan or focus? 

Well you have to do all those things. You have to prioritize, your team has to prioritize. They’re going to keep us on the road supporting this new record. All these people that are financially liable just the suits side of it talking, but the suits need to know that we need time to write and time to decompress and record. So yeah actually I think we’re going to be in the studio again very soon. Soon as maybe two weeks from now when we’re in New York. To demo some new stuff we’ve been working on. I actually want to release music even more frequently then I already do.

Oh yeah? 

Yeah I think so. Not necessarily full lengths but maybe a song here or there, or even an EP within the next year.

That’s incredible. I mean the way the music industry is working, I’m sure that’s something a lot of people want to do. 

Yeah I think it’s essential. I mean it’s tough. You sell less music these days. You have to tour more to make a living but then the more you tour, the more you’re finding out that it’s harder to tour now because there’s more festivals. It’s hard man. It’s almost like you have to work even harder to get half as much. That’s just kind of the reality of the situation.

And there are more artists popping  up like every single day. 

And then they’re doing the same thing. Some of them are kind of part of that newer mold so us older guys try to figure it out where some people are reinventing the wheel. And that kind of sends shockwaves through the industry and then people copy that. It’s very interesting, ever changing certainly. It seems like that’s for everything though. With the changing technology and everything else. It’s changing so much quicker then ever before.

So to end it off, you’ve been doing this since your debut came out in 2006, it’s been eleven years, so when you were 23. What was something you would have  told yourself then? Maybe something you would have avoided or something you wish you had done? Looking back and doing this for over ten years as a professionally touring musician. 

That’s a good question. I don’t think I would really think about that too much. Maybe I would go back and look at it, the only reason I would do that would be to run away from the mistakes I made but that’s dangerous to spend so much time looking back. I could probably be more patient with releasing some of my records. I probably would have changed some of my decision making and who I maybe worked with but I think I’ve done pretty much the best with what I have. We’ve worked for pretty much everything we’ve been given. When you know you’ve worked as hard as you possibly can and something falls short, at least you know you’ve tried your best. You’ve left it all on the stage. I think we’re doing pretty good. We make a good living. We’re not super famous or anything like that, thank god. Never wanted that. Just wanted to make a living. Now it’s just continuing to make a living and I guess being the best artist you can. And somewhere in there, there will be some sort of happiness through it all.

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Colleen has been writing about music since 2009. Interviewing bands since the glory days of Warped and has continued to do so for now over fourteen years. As well as doing freelance for other publications, the love for everything rock continues today.