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Friday, May 31, 2013

Pokey LaFarge Talks New Album, Lineup and Traveling the World

Posted By on Fri, May 31, 2013 at 6:32 AM

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Artist profile on Pokey LaFarge from Channel Nine.

The first single off Pokey LaFarge is a love song to St. Louis and the Midwest entitled "Central Time," a sweet little barn-stormer that'll have toes tapping and hips all aquiver on May 31 at Casa Loma Ballroom, the only St. Louis date on the band's four-month tour.

"We're very proud that we didn't have to move to New York City or Los Angeles or Nashville or Austin or Portland or Seattle to say that we made it, you know? We stayed right home in St. Louis, and we worked really hard; we did it from there. I'm proud of that."

"I'm certainly very fortunate to have a great fanbase in St. Louis," LaFarge adds. "We have a connection with a lot of people in that town, friends and family. We certainly talk up St. Louis wherever we go...I think St. Louis weeds out the weak."

The "Jack White Effect" can't go unmentioned -- for now -- and though the Cinderfella story is familiar, it bears repeating. One day, Pokey's manager is all, "So, like, Jack White digs your shit," and Pokey's all, "Aces, man. That cat is alright." (We're reading between the lines here, forgive.) And then Pokey's phone like, rings and stuff, and he's expecting one of Mr. White's henchmen but blammo! Jack White's on the line! "Hi. Jack White. You don't suck. Come to Nashville." While everyone loves a tale of obscurity-cum-notoriety, Pokey's characteristically nonchalant about recording with White, touring with White, playing on his solo record Blunderbuss, counting White as one of his homies -- though Pokey would never use the word "homie."

While he's obviously grateful for the opportunity, it hasn't changed the man himself -- even if he'd never gotten that phone call, he'd still be wearing the same clothes, playing the same music and touring the country and the world regardless. "I don't care about getting famous," he says. "To me it's about making a living and working hard. That's what I respect most about Jack. With him, you just get to work. I guess I would say it's maybe the same thing that I've been doing forever: Just do exactly what I want to do when I want to do it. And that's what he does." (Without White's imprimatur though, Pokey may not get the luxury of life-sustaining watermelon in his tour rider: "I'm living on a steady diet of barbeque and watermelon," he says.) He decries the media machine that pushes products instead of "the real deal," a category in which he doubtless places himself and his band. They are, after all, an elegant and thorough homage to their sonic forebears. It goes without saying that Pokey will never sacrifice aesthetic for radio play.

For all his reverence for the past, Pokey is quick to say that we have it all, right now, and while the art/music/architecture/clothing/food was by all accounts better back when our grandparents were doing the jitterbug, we have no right to gripe. "Our parents, our grandparents had it a lot harder than we ever did. People around the world right now have it a lot worse than we ever did. We have everything we need at our fingertips. It's important for people to appreciate that."

Whenever he's on the subject of America, which is often, he turns quickly to politics, saying that quality was better back then because Americans fought and died to make it so. You couldn't find something "made in China" when Sleepy John Estes was strumming the blues, and in Pokey's mind, we could easily return to the days when quality was king and people, not corporations, ran the country. "We're too busy telling people, 'You need to go to college, you need to go to college,' when you can make just as much money as a carpenter or a plumber, working a trade job with benefits as opposed to paying thousands and thousands of dollars in college debt. I think it's so interesting that people don't expect me, who looks like a little Archie musician kid, to be so proud and gung-ho American. But I think it makes sense. I'm a red-blooded American, but I feel like I have a different experience and a more hands-on approach to this country."

His hands-on approach is paying off. And even though he's at home on the road, Pokey LaFarge is still just a Midwestern boy getting by on Central Time.

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