Highly regarded as the critical darling of 2012 with his respected debut album, “Signs & Signifiers,” JD McPherson is gearing up for the inevitable crashing rocket ride back to earth.
“We’re definitely looking forward to the dreaded sophomore release,” said McPherson, laughing, calling from his home in Broken Arrow, Okla. “Everyone is going to hate it.”
Invariably, that’s the complete antithesis of what he experienced last year when “Signs & Signifiers” was released to glowing reviews and became the most-played album of the year on Americana radio. Specifically, his lead single, “North Side Gal,” was an Internet smash, garnering more than a million views. This led to appearances on “Conan,” “The Late Show with David Letterman” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”
The album’s appeal stemmed from its unique blend of ’50s-inspired music ranging from early rock and rhythm and blues to hints of rockabilly and even twang. Despite its dated motif, “Signs & Signifiers” came across as earnest and somehow modern.
Even crazier is the fact that McPherson recorded the album on the side when he was a full-time middle-school art teacher. Luckily for the singer-guitarist, budget cuts made him unemployed. That’s when fate stepped in.
“It’s actually the best thing ever that happened,” McPherson said. “I wanted to play music for a living since I was a kid, but my interests were always sort of based enough where I never thought you could make a good, honest living at it. It goes to show you. The album was, strictly speaking, a pet project. When I lost my job, I had an album that had a little bit of interest in Europe and within the roots-music community.
“So while I had a little bit of summer pay left, I said, ‘Let’s hit the road and do this while I look for another teaching job.’ I was fortunate. A year later, we were able to do some shows with the Dave Matthews Band and do Bonnaroo. It’s pretty nuts, actually.”
That surreality included an appearance last fall at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s “Roll Over Beethoven: The Life and Music of Chuck Berry.” Now McPherson, who previously performed at the Beachland Tavern, returns to Northeast Ohio opening for the Dave Matthews Band at Blossom Music Center.
Apparently, there’s something about McPherson’s music that appeals not only to a wide array of audiences but other bands. Not only did he open up for a few Bob Seger stadium shows, but he’s been approached to support a couple of punk bands later this year.
“I’m not really sure why this is happening,” McPherson said. “I think there’s a little buzz going on right now. There are a ton of bands that are sort of fans of mid-’50s rhythm and blues and rock ’n’ roll stuff. It’s kind of weird.”
As far as that dreaded sophomore release tentatively due out next spring, McPherson said he’s looking ahead with all of the gusto and creativity a band on the rise can muster.
“There’s kind of a shifting of winds in the way we may record this new album,” McPherson said. “What is my primary interest and what my band does well is a sound that’s kind of early rock ’n’ roll, rhythm blues and garage stuff. So that will be there, but hopefully we’ll have a little more art school injected into it.”
- JD McPherson (wrblfm.wordpress.com)