While Seattle singer/songwriter Damien Jurado’s 15-year lo-fi career might not seem all that lavish, his lyrics most certainly are. Throughout the years, Jurado has weaved his mournful fictional confessions into nine recordings, each successively expanding on the one before it. But when it came time to pen the follow-up to 2006’s And Now That I’m in Your Shadow, it was a very different muse that took the creative reigns. Gone are Jurado’s signature stories, settings, and characters; in their place, meditations on deeply personal life experiences. With collaborators Eric Fisher and Jenna Conrad at his side, Jurado’s net result, Caught in the Trees, is not only his finest album to date, but also his most personal. On Monday night, Club Mercy presents a performance by Jurado at the intimate Muddy Waters Cafe in what will surely prove to be much more than a musical blind date.
Your most recent album, Caught in the Trees, is probably your most collaborative undertaking to date. What inspired such a unified approached? I think the reason is that, in the past, with the other records, I would just go in and do my part and then let everybody do their own thing and that would be it. But this record was more Eric and Jenna and I working together as a band and coming up with ideas. It’s a very different record.
What spawned that approach? The songs came about because of the things I was going through on a personal level. I was going through a divorce after being married for 13 years and it was a really hard time. It came full force during the writing process for the album. This was the first record that I was able to write from a personal standpoint, and Eric and Jenna were so involved because they were both there the entire time and were going through it too on a certain level.
Was writing from a personal standpoint a cathartic experience? When I started out writing the songs I didn’t originally realize they were about me. That didn’t come until later on. With “Dimes,” for instance, I didn’t realize it was about me and my ex-wife until I started recording the vocals. So that was really weird. And songs like “Go First” are also blatant songs about her and me.
What’s it like now to have some distance from that period and those songs? It’s definitely weird. I have since met someone and got remarried, so it’s weird to go back and revisit those songs and the time those songs represent-mostly because it’s not me anymore. I have moved on. And I’m not writing from a personal perspective anymore either. I’ve gone back to the fiction stuff.
Your fictional songs are incredibly vivid and compelling. Where do those tales typically come from? I’m not really sure! And I don’t think I’ve ever known-they just sort of happen. They’re these made-up things that come from ideas and visions of situations.
Another powerful aspect of your songwriting is location. Your songs always have a very vivid setting. Is it a sense of identity you are trying to create? That’s a very good question. The locations in the song are definitely meant to represent something, but it’s not specifically about that place. It’s more like the town is another character in the song.
And it helps shape the characters too. Do you find poetry in extremes in cultural diversity here? Yeah. It’s so diverse everywhere you go. You can wake up in Philadelphia and the people talk different and then you head on to Virginia and it changes again. And it’s no just the accents, it’s the culture too. It’s how the people are. That’s one of the things that I love about America.
You’re traveling at the moment. Does touring inspire bouts of creativity, or is the experience simply about performing? It’s more about the playing, but I wrote one song while on this tour. I wrote it at the beginning of the tour and ended playing it that night, actually. I have also been writing a screenplay, and I think that traveling and being away helps with that. This tour is easier because I’m out without a band so I have more time and it’s more relaxed.
How are you finding the experience of writing a screenplay? It isn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be. It’s like taking a song and giving more dimensions to it. The screenplay is actually based on a song of mine called “Medication” from the album Ghosts of David, so it’s pretty intense.
Is it difficult to constrain your ideas and stories to three-minute songs? No, not really. I think of a song like a blind date. You meet someone, you have lunch with them, you get to know them a little, and then it’s over. But a screenplay is more like a relationship. You really get to know them.
Is it difficult to constrain your ideas and stories to three minute songs? No, not really. I think of a song like a blind date. You met someone, you have lunch with them, you get to know them a little, and then it’s over. But a screenplay is more like a relationship. You really get to know them.
Damien Jurado will play Muddy Waters Cafe (508 E. Haley St.) with Laura Gibson this Monday, May 4, at 8 p.m. For tickets and show information, call 966-9328 or visit clubmercy.com.