Though he still lives in Seattle, Damien Jurado's music beams in from Roswell, New Mexico.
(His records actually come from Bloomington, but we'll get to that later.)
Jurado's latest album, Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son, is a sequel to his conceptual 2012 release Maraqopa, and shares its dreamy, unsettling universe of windswept landscapes, UFOs and silver-garbed spiritual seekers.
Both albums were collaborations with musician-producer Richard Swift, who's affiliated with such entities as the Shins, the Black Keys and Guster. Jurado and Swift played virtually all the instruments and mixed in plenty of reverb, along with fiery guitars and Jurado's high-lonesome vocals, for a psychedelic, orchestral sound that evokes Neil Young's ambitious early days.
Currently on tour with Jason Isbell, Jurado will step out Wednesday for a solo acoustic show at Radio Radio. If you like him, catch it, because he's ready for a break and not sure where he's going next. More on that later, too.
The 42-year-old family man and avid painter discussed his ideas and motivations in a recent phone call with NUVO.
NUVO: These records are big and atmospheric. Is it hard to put the songs across live with just voice and guitar?
Damien Jurado: The songs begin on acoustic guitar, anyhow. They don't become lush and full-bodied-sounding until the studio, and so really what the audience is hearing is just how they were written, in their skeletal forms. But I think the impact is pretty much the same. I think it's still as compelling as the albums.
NUVO: Can you explain the theme behind these past two albums?
Jurado: Maraqopa is based on a dream I had about a guy who decides he's just going to give up and disappear. You've probably heard stories about people like this. They don't commit suicide. They just disappear and go live off the grid. And those they leave behind don't know what happened to them. That's basically what happens to this guy, and as he's on his journey, he comes across this small town called Maraqopa. It's almost Twilight Zone-esque. There's all this paranormal stuff happening with spirits and UFOs involved, things like that. Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son is basically the second half to that story.
NUVO: Half the titles on the album include the word "silver," and your characters have names like Silver Donna and Silver Malcolm. What does silver mean to you in that world?
Jurado: There's lots of metallic silver imagery in the album, and that's because of the whole UFO thing. The silver is really a play on classic '50s sci-fi B movies, the shiny outfits they're wearing. It's almost cult-like too, as if the people I'm singing about have a cult.
NUVO: You've spoken before about your faith, and there are hints of it on this album. How does it inform your music?
Jurado: I think it's just a part of me. I believe that the spirit of Christ is within me, so if that is the case, that is naturally going to seep into things that I do. I'm pretty open about what I believe, but in that same breath – I want to be very clear about this – I am in no way, shape or form claiming to be a Christian musician. Because I'm not proselytizing, I'm not being a preacher. My spiritual life is very much a personal thing.
NUVO: You’re also a visual artist. You have paintings for sale on your website.
Jurado: I was a painter long before I did music. Painting is really my passion. Music is just, like, it’s my hobby. [laughs] It’s a hobby that’s become my job, and that’s a really fortunate thing. But painting is a spiritual thing. It’s a very personal thing.
NUVO: For over a decade now, you've been with the indie label Secretly Canadian, based here in Indiana. What's good about working with them?
Jurado: I really like them a lot. They've been so supportive of everything I've been doing over the past years. They give me complete control. They trust the artist, which I'm really into; it's very important to do that. And they're a label that takes risks, and I'm into that as well. They're awesome.
NUVO: What's next for you? Another album in the works?
Jurado: I'm doing some studio stuff, but I'm also trying to maintain a life of just being normal. I feel like I've been doing this nonstop, you know? So I think slowing down a bit is an OK thing. I don't know. I'm not really a planner.