Jay Farrar is as dependable as death and taxes. His voice, found on scores of Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt records plus his own solo work, is so distinct that even if you didn’t know the words, you know his singing like an old friend.
On the newest Son Volt record, The Search, the singer-guitarist pulls away from rootsy, protest-fueled rock of the band’s previous album, Okemah and the Melody of Riot, adds a new player and flips on the experimental switch.
In an interview last week, Farrar discussed the gestation of SV’s new album, his stance on illegal downloading and the 2008 presidential race.
LEO: What was the songwriting process like for this album as opposed to the other albums you’ve done?
Jay Farrar: With Okemah and the Melody of Riot, the inspiration was to get back to the fundamentals. I wanted to get back to the electric band aesthetic. This time around, there were more songs to work with, so that allowed for things to move in different directions.
LEO: Did you set out with a specific theme or themes in mind?
JF: I usually work backward. I let ideas come with more of a free format, and write around that. It seemed to me that The Search is more about appreciating the journey than having any set goals.
LEO: Rolling Stone recently published a story about how the Recording Industry Association of America is cracking down on college students illegally downloading music. Where do you stand on this issue?
JF: Honestly, I don’t pay that much attention to it. A band like Son Volt gets the word out by touring. I don’t see it as a bad thing that people are passing Son Volt records around.
LEO: We’re entering a presidential election year. If you could speak directly to the next president of the United States, what would you say?
JF: Depends on who it is. If it’s (Illinois Senator) Barack Obama, he would know everything already. It’s difficult, so many lessons of Vietnam were ignored along the way, it just makes me wonder how a whole governmental agency could apparently be sleeping during History Class 101.
LEO: Besides music, what other forms of art inspire you?
JF: Maybe the biggest influence is just literature. Going back to my late teens and 20s, I did a lot of reading at that time, and that probably shaped the way that I write now. Jack Kerouac’s style, more free-form, stream-of-consciousness (style), appealed to me a lot.
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