Jeffrey Foucault, one of the finest songwriters of his generation, is stopping in town as part of his tour of the Southwest.
Foucault has taken, in his own words, “the small roads,” building a brick and mortar, independent international touring career of 10 studio albums, countless miles and critical accolades. According to The New Yorker, he’s been lauded for stark, literate songs that are as wide open as the landscape of his native Midwest. The Irish Times described him as quietly brilliant. He has caught the ear of everyone from Greil Marcus to Don Henley (who regularly covers Foucault in his live set), to Van Dyke Parks.
In a phone interview with Vision Magazine, Foucault talked about his song writing inspirations. “The things I write about comes from life experience and from poetry,” he said. “I read quite a lot of poetry. Some of it contemporary, some of it fairly old and books. I read a decent mixture of fiction and novels, novellas and nonfiction, too. Maybe not TV — I don’t have a TV. I try to limit the time I spend on the internet, if I can avoid it, though it is a part of life now. It didn’t used to be.
“I got home from Scotland the night before last (May 29). I just mowed the lawn,” Foucault said and laughed. “I am going to get cleaned up and go fishing not looking at my calendar. I know I am doing two dates in Arizona and three dates in New Mexico.”
Foucault is bringing two of his friends and fellow musicians with him. “Eric Heywood will be on pedal steel and electric guitar, he is one of the best pedal steel players in the world and that’s not too hard to say that,” Foucault said. “He’s in the band Pretenders, he was one of the original members of Son Volt. You won’t find a pedal steel player that would not know who he is.
“Billy Conway is my drummer and I would say the same thing. He is a fantastic drummer. He was in the band Morphine and played with and met everybody. He is like the Forrest Gump of American music. He has opened for Bob Dylan, he has met Johnny Cash.
“These two guys are some of the best musicians in the last 30 years of American music,” Foucault said.
“They are dear old friends. We don’t get to bring Eric everywhere – he is busy playing with other people. He appears on the record I have most recently recorded. We are going to play a mix of old and new songs.
This is Foucault’s first time performing in town.
“I have driven near Roswell and I toured in New Mexico but never in Roswell. I am looking forward to it. I have been touring for 16 or 17 years and you start going back to the same places over and over again. Every time you see a new place, that gets exciting,” Foucault said.
Foucault’s baritone is raw, rough and unforgiving. His bluesy songs depict the essence of longing for love, home and the highway. He is a master of controlling emotions with his vocals as a fine tuned instrument. His songs are like a comfortable warm coat of stories about heartbreak that resonates with the memories of life’s painful moments that everyone has at least once in their lifespan.
There is a strong contrast between Foucault’s blues and his humorous interaction with the audience in between the songs.
One of his older songs is “Oh Mama.” The song shows a longing for love and a longing to leave.
“That is a fair characterization of that (the song lyrics),” Foucault said. “There is an old saying, that wanting to meet a writer because you enjoy what they have written is like wanting to meet a duck because you like pâté.
“There is a whole bunch that leads into it. Certainly, a degree of personal annotation is one of those things, but also standing in the middle my life with my mom toward the end of her life, my daughter in the beginning of the life. She is nine now, I wrote that song five years ago,” Foucault said.
“I was just trying to get this very simple idea of the way we indelibly grow apart from the most primary relationships that we have. Just the fact that you are related to somebody doesn’t necessarily mean that you will ever understand each other,“ Foucault said and laughed. “It makes it less than likely and trying to make sense of the fact that I was not close to my mother at one point as I would have liked to be.
“It had obvious, baring implication on my daughter, who is very close. It can’t be changed.”
One of the lyrics of “Oh Mama” is, “I was born to shake the world with a sound.”
“I wrote that poem — I wasn’t writing a song lyric — when I was in a tour van in Europe somewhere in the Netherlands, Germany or Luxemburg,” Foucault said. “For once, I didn’t have to drive because I had a tour manager and a full band on the road.
“I was reading Dylan Thomas poems and if you read the lyrics of ‘Oh Mama,’ the connection to Thomas is obvious right from the get-go. Be careful what you read. Sometimes, it carries a great impact and I don’t think that anybody who hears that song makes the connection to Thomas,” Foucault said.
Foucault is going to perform this Friday at 7 p.m. at Pecos Flavors Winery + Bistro, 412 W. Second St. For tickets and more information, call 627-6265.
Christina Stock may be contacted at 622-7710, ext. 309, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.