In the same way that you could describe Jeffrey Foucault’s music as being an amalgamation of styles — from blues to country to folk to rock ’n’ roll — the source of his artistic ingenuity also comes from a variety of sources, not just musical. An avid reader, he takes inspiration from a multitude of literary works.
“I read quite a bit. I read a lot of poetry. Most of my songs come from a connection between the ideas that I encounter in my reading, and I sort of split that between fiction and nonfiction and poetry. My favorite poets are Jim Harrison, Jack Gilbert, and Kenneth Rexroth,” he said. His deep appreciation for poems makes him a perfect fit for the Maverick Saloon’s Tales from the Tavern, where he will wax poetic about the inspirations behind his work this upcoming Wednesday, May 11.
That’s not to say that Foucault’s inspiration comes solely from reading, as the celebrated artist also draws heavily from experiences in nature. “I spend a lot of time outside, so my connection to the actual real world is a pretty solid wellspring of inspiration for my music,” he said.
Just this past October, Jeffrey released his latest and 10th studio album, Salt as Wolves, a work that has been described as “immaculately tailored” according to the New York Times and a “marvelous record” in the words of the Boston Globe. As a complete piece of his artistry, the new album builds upon years of perfecting his craft. “It’s probably the most mature and wholesome representation of all the things that I’m interested in musically and all the things I listen to and tried to do before,” he said. “When I started out, the songs I was writing were essentially folk songs with traditional country forms and blues forms, but truthfully, I was not as capable of bringing everything else into it.”
With well over a decade’s experience and a wealth of previously released music to learn from, Foucault’s expertise also derives from his younger days when he purchased his first record.
“The first record I bought was a rock ’n’ roll record — Little Richard — and so it took me a long time to figure out how to bring electric guitar and blues and rock ’n’ roll and folk music all together to something that had a distinct imprint. It comes down to the connection I have with me and my drummer [Billy Conway] and the rest of the guys in my band.”
As Foucault puts it, his relationship to his fellow musicians provides a strong sense of stability at shows, especially in the way he works with Conway in organizing and sticking to a definite set list and the freedom provided by some structure. “Until we started touring together, I didn’t really feel like I could do everything I wanted to do. I didn’t think I had the chops as a guitar player. When I figured out I could bring that onto the road, I think it gave me the versatility and the range to cover a whole bunch of territory musically,” he said. “Billy was adamant — he likes to stick with a set list. So the freedom you get when you really know what you’re doing… It takes a certain level of discipline to stick with the same program a bunch of nights in a row. It opens up a lot of room for you to improvise and new, deeper territory with every song you play.”
His Tales from the Tavern set will be a prime opportunity to witness the fruits of his musical labor with Salt as Wolves. As he puts it in his own words, the goal of recording an album — like playing live — is always to have a “real good time.”
“Anytime I meet someone and they say they don’t like to work in the studio, I think, ‘Man, you must be doing it wrong.’ There’s almost nothing to compare it to,” he said. “For me, getting a bunch of your best friends together — there’s really no analog in the rest of your life unless you go back to when you were maybe 10 or 11, and you and your little buddies did something completely useless like dam a small creek. And you worked on it and had a great time, and you all worked together. That sense of play and seriousness compounded — that’s what you get working in a studio with everybody working for the same thing.”
Jeffrey Foucault plays Tales from the Tavern with Laurie Sargent at Maverick Saloon (3687 Sagunto St., Santa Ynez) on Wednesday, May 11, at 7:30 p.m. For more information, visit talesfromthetavern.com or call (805) 688-0383.