Kris Delmhorst Crafts Her Masterpiece
Boston-Based Folkie Heads West with a New Album
Singer/songwriter Kris Delmhorst first explored how time and distance can influence art on 2006’s Strange Conversation-an album inspired by poetry from the likes of Lord Byron, Walt Whitman, e.e. cummings, and Rumi. Now the Boston-based musician is turning these elements upon her own work. Her latest recorded offering, Shotgun Singer, is the product of a consciously drawn-out undertaking that found Delmhorst writing and recording from a remote cabin during the span of several years. And while the emotional intensity of some of the world’s finest bards is certainly a tough act to follow, Singer successfully emerged as one of the most resonating recordings of 2008. With the northeast currently snowbound, Delmhorst and her singer/songwriter husband, Jeffrey Foucault, are heading west for a rare joint tour that will offer them a little climatic reprieve-and a chance to wax poetic at SOhO.
Is this tour simply an excuse for the two of you to escape the snow? It doesn’t hurt. We always like to play out there in January, even though I’m a big fan of these northeast winters. And we’re having a great one this year.
Does the winter weather affect your songwriting? As a writer, I like the chance to look inward, and the quieter, darker, and contemplative season is a good time for writing, at least for me. The seasons have such an effect on your emotions, so winter gives you a chance to reflect upon what’s going on around you. I’m not someone who gets depressed during the winter, but it does change your psyche a little bit.
Shotgun Singer posits that love is a conduit for change. How do you navigate the boundary between speaking from the heart and speaking in platitudes? That’s interesting. For me, the less I know what I’m writing about while I’m writing, the better it’s going to turn out. If I was going to sit down and say, “I’m going to write a song about how love transforms people,” it would pretty much come out crap, I guarantee you. I usually start with some sort of image that’s compelling to me and often I’m not sure why. And if I’m curious enough to keep chipping away, eventually it will bloom into a song.
The album also has a wonderful element of self-examination to it. How much did writing and recording in solitude help aid that? It had a lot to do with it. For me, it was quite different because when there are people around you’re operating on an outward energy. When you are completely alone and no one can hear you, it really frees you up to take a lot of risks because you don’t have to make sense or get anywhere. You can spend all day on a dead-end and not get anywhere because you’re not wasting anybody’s time or driving anyone else crazy.
Did it give you greater freedom than going into a studio with a band and recording while on the clock? Absolutely. It’s totally different from trying to organize a group of people in one room at one moment. I have never had the luxury of being able to have my own band. If you had that level of communication with a group of players, then maybe you could do a similar exploratory process as a group, which would be fascinating. But that’s not part of my world. I’m a fan of Wilco and they’ve done a similar thing as a group, where they go into the studio and spend months and months experimenting. There was an awful lot for me to learn by taking it really slow.
Kris Delmhorst and Jeffrey Foucault will play at SOhO (1221 State St.) this Tuesday, January 27, at 7:30 p.m. Call 962-7776 or visit sohosb.com for tickets and details.