by: Thomas D. Mooney
Back in the Fall, we did a short little interview with singer-songwriter Jacob Furr during The Fall Blue Light Singer-Songwriter Competition–a competition he’d go on and win as well. We never got around to officially publishing it, but decided to pull it out of the vault since Furr is playing The Blue Light tonight.
We ended up speaking primarily about the two songs Furr played the night he advanced–“Blake’s Song” and “Drift Away.”Furr gave us some insight on the two incredibly poignant, personal, and reflective songs come from Furr’s latest full-length album Trails & Traces.
Jacob Furr is playing The Blue Light full band tonight with Karen Jonas and Tim Bray opening things up. Watch/Listen to “Falling Stars” below.
New Slang: On Monday before you played it, you were giving a little detail about where the song came from–“Blake’s Song,” you were saying was inspired by you reading some poetry by William Blake, didn’t really like it, but was still inspired to write this song. What specifically, from that event and experience influenced that song?
Jacob Furr: Yeah, that was inspired by a book of poetry by William Blake. I have it around here somewhere. Earlier, I had read this interview with Bob Dylan and he was talking about how he was really into William Blake. A lot of songwriters are. So I thought I needed to get some since I hadn’t read any. I went out and got a book of poetry. I said it as sort of a joke that I didn’t like his work, but really, I just never finished the book [laughs]. I just got lazy and never finished. But, there’s one poem early on, called “The Milkmaid” where he starts off kind of describing the morning as a milk maid. I kind of took that idea and expanded on it a little bit. It’s kind of a short poem, but I really liked the idea and went with that. It’s about dealing with grief and the reoccurrence of days. They keep coming back. They’re always new and they’re always fresh. This maid of the morning is always doing the same thing every morning.
NS: The other song you did was “Drift Away.” Just incredibly well down. The imagery of that song is great. One of the things I really enjoy about songs and writing in general is when people describe things that are familiar to most, but they’re said in a way no one has said before. It’s describing things from a different angle and different light that once you hear it, it makes sense and you fully understand it, but you’ve never really thought to view it from there.
JF: That song is really, really personal. That’s the song I wrote immediately after Christina passed away last year. Not immediately, I guess it was a couple of months after. You go into a state of shock when something like that happens–when someone passes away unexpectedly. After, it was seeing things in my house starting to deteriorate. Pictures started to bend. Dust began to settle. I didn’t really care about cleaning up for a while. Then one day, I just woke up and knew it was enough. I had to start cleaning the house. That’s where that first line came from. “Today, I started cleaning the place up.” That song really just started to spill out. Those are all really personal and really clear images to me. We used to sit on the front porch every night. That was kind of our thing. We’d sit out there and sort of depressurize from the day I guess. I was also really into Ry Cooder last year and he has this one song “How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?” I kind of ripped that in the third verse with “how can a man stand such things and live?” The last verse, “And the questions all reveal themselves as I begin to put my life back on the shelf,” I thought that felt right. I like how the song arcs. You’re cleaning the house and you start going through all these memories and questions and by the end, you’re back into the reality of cleaning the house up again. You’re back to putting things on shelves, boxing things up, and dusting. It’s a real personal song.
NS: Yes. The personal aspect of that song, you can definitely tell when you hear it and you see it being played live. When you’re playing a song that’s about things that are more personal in the live setting, do you tend to watch for people’s reactions or do you end up going back to when you wrote that song?
JF: It definitely depends on the song. I have songs that are definitely have songs that are all about the crowd response and interaction. I wrote them for people to dance to or to bring down the energy and be really quiet for a moment. That song specifically, I really do go to my own place. I like singing it. It’s a touchstone. Time is passing and the emotions are getting less powerful, but I can sing it and really touch the moment and remember the specifics of that day.