Those who complain that “music doesn’t sound like it used to” obviously haven’t listened to JD McPherson.
Just as Amy Winehouse harked back to some of the 20th century’s best soul singers without being too derivative, JD McPherson takes 50s and 60s-style rock ‘n’ roll popularised by the likes of Buddy Holly and Little Richard and makes it firmly his own.
The Oklahoma native’s classic-sounding take on the genre soon acquired a healthy fanbase, and last year saw the release of debut LP Signs & Signifiers.
Ahead of JD’s show at the Oran Mòr in Glasgow on Friday January 25 as part of Celtic Connections, we caught up with the slick singer-guitarist to find out what’s in store for the Scottish crowd.
For the uninitiated, what can be expected from a JD McPherson show?
We work very hard to make sure every single person in the audience has a good time. My band is made up of some of the best traditional rhythm & blues musicians anywhere. I’m incredibly lucky to be playing with these guys. Our audience is very diverse, everyone is welcome. People are encouraged to dance, but we want that to be a right, not a privilege. No dance lessons necessary. Jump up and down like a maniac. That makes me happy.
Some have described you as bringing rock ‘n’ roll back to its roots – was that a conscience decision that you made, or something that occurred naturally?
I’m a fan of all music, in high school I discovered punk rock and hardcore music, and I dove in head first. When I discovered Buddy Holly and Little Richard, I dove even further! Early Rock N’ Roll and Rhythm & Blues scratches an itch for me. When we made this record, we wanted to take everything we loved about Rock N’ Roll, and approach it in a fresh way. I think that the more information you take in, the better your output can be. I have an immense amount of respect and admiration for this type of music, and I think people can see that.
Given the prevalence of more electronic music in the charts, can you imagine doing what you do without a live band behind you?
I like electronic music too. I’m not sure that our ideas for this project could be expressed correctly in the electronic medium. This band HAS to have the human hand involved. It has to be imperfect.
How important was it for you to record your album on tape rather than digitally?
Tape is wonderful, but it’s less important to me than the philosophy of capturing a live performance. When we record, we play with each other in a room, with no headphones. That approach may not work for everyone, I don’t think it’s “The Only Way To Record”, as some of my favourite albums were recorded with (I’m sure) a click track, and one instrument at a time. But for us, it’s the only way to go. It’s slippery!
What’s your own personal Celtic Connection?
Because the United States is built from immigrants from everywhere in the world, many US citizens identify culturally with the heritage of their ancestors. You’ll often hear Americans say, “I’m Greek”, or “I’m Italian”.
My namesake, Ezriel MacPherson came over to North Carolina from Jura (an island in the Inner Hebrides) in the mid 1700s. My mother is very interested in genealogy – that’s the only reason I know this stuff! – and researches it quite a bit. She also has some Scottish ancestors, the MacDowells. I’m by no means of 100% Scottish ancestry, but I’m proud of the name I have.
And finally, with this being the first month of the new year, what other music would you recommend at the moment?
I recommend listening to the fellow we’re touring with, Sean Rowe. He’s fantastic. For older music, I’m really really into Irma Thomas’ work with Alan Toussaint, and I’m also listening to a lot of Slim Harpo.
Source: STV Entertainment