Song of the Day: Damien Jurado – Nothing Is the News

Damien Jurado at SXSW 2011
photo by Christopher Nelson

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we offer songs by local artists. Today’s selection, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Nothing Is the News” by Damien Jurado from his forthcoming album, Maraqopa, available on 2/21/12 from Secretly Canadian.

Damien Jurado – Nothing Is the News (MP3)

Today’s song is a sneak peak at the new Damien Jurado album due out next month. It’s a long way from the lo-fi cassette recordings he originally self-released in the mid-nineties, yet fans of this Seattle singer/songwriter will find familiarity in this seemingly distant junction we find him in now. Building on the Spector-esque style Jurado and collaborator/producer Richard Swift began experimenting with on his last release Saint Bartlett, Jurado takes it one step further and introduces psych elements and drony vocals in this new collection of songs out next month. The result is a cinematic and sonically intriguing backdrop for Jurado’s narrative-laden lyrics that have kept fans coming back with each release. Jurado talked recently about his collaboration with Swift and on being dubbed the grandfather of the Seattle folk revival.

You’ve been called the godfather of the recent folk boom here in Seattle, do you feel like there was a time where you were a fish swimming up river?

It’s an honor to be given the title of “godfather” to anything. Though, it’s not something that I feel completely comfortable with. If anyone is the godfather of Seattle folk music, it’s Jim Page. Not me. All I did was write some songs and perform them on an acoustic guitar. Yes, there were plenty of times, where I felt like a fish going up river. But that’s because there weren’t really any other “acoustic” artists to do shows with, when I started out. I think audiences were generally confused. Not “folkie” enough for the real folk enthusiasts, and not “indie rock” enough for… whatever that means. There were many times where I was confusing myself. It’s taken me this long to finally figure it out.

What is it like for you now working with a generation of musicians who cite you as an influence?

To be an influence, or to still be relevant, within an ever growing music city like Seattle, or any city, for that matter, is an honor. I’m very proud of what we have going here, in the northwest – from great venues, to publications, and radio, to the many bands, from all genres… I’m so blessed to be a part of that.

From what I’ve heard so far, Maraqopa has some new sonic directions for you. What do you do to push yourself or challenge yourself as a songwriter?

I aim to be open to any and all things. Sonically especially. How an album sounds is important. When making Maraqopa, I wanted to create a sonic world. It needed to have its own ecosystem. So, Richard Swift and I looked at this “ceiling” if you will, and removed it. I took the same approach to the songwriting and arranging this time around as well. Allowing the songs to just be as they arrived. Not changing or correcting. All of the vocals and guitars were first takes. Nothing was re-done. This went for most of the lead guitar work as well. Showing Dan Hindman (Vetiver) 30 seconds of the song, and then pressing record for a take. Making Maraqopa was a very free-ing experience.

I understand that you were back in the studio with Richard Swift for this album. How did this experience compare to working with him on Saint Bartlett?

Well, when Richard and I did Saint Bartlett, it was our first time not only working together, but also meeting. Because, I was already a fan of not only his production, but also his records, I put full trust in him right away. Were there some things to figure out along the way? Sure. I think that is how it is with any relationship. If anything, I think making Maraqopa pushed any limitations or doubts he may have had aside. Going into sonic territories that he had perhaps never gone before. I am very honored to know him, and to work with him. I don’t see me working with any other producer, ever.

What can you tell me about Nothing is the News?

“Nothing is the News” makes for a good front door into a world where there is only one way out.

The release show for Maraqopa will be at the Neptune on 2/17 with Gold Leaves and Bryan John Appleby. Advance ticket information and more dates can be found on his website. In the meantime, here’s a glimpse of Jurado recording with Richard Swift at National Freedom Studios:

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