Jeffrey Foucault talks Top Ramen living and touring 200 nights per year
I would [sooner] have a loaded gun in my home [than] a television—you can teach a kid how to use a gun but you can’t teach a kid how to use a TV,” says singer/songwriter Jeffrey Foucault when asked about the meaning behind “Last Night I Dreamed of Television,” one of the darker songs off his latest effort, Horse Latitudes. Foucault’s poetic flair and bold approach to songwriting are evident in the track’s mysteriously atmospheric chords and powerful lyrics: “Last night I dreamed of television and I wept for break of day.”
“I was just sort of scratchin’ where it itched; I was writing about what bothered me,” he explains. “I think that music is gonna fall under the broader category of art. And when you make art you don’t try to accomplish anything but making art—art that feels true under a basic and sort of visceral level.”
With prominent acoustics, warm vocals and atmospheric slide guitar work, Foucault’s sound falls somewhere in between country and blues, with a folk-rock twist. His music has the timeless feel of artists like John Prine, Neil Young, and (one of Foucault’s favorites) Bob Dylan. “You can have any opinion about Bob Dylan you want,” he says. “But when it comes to Bob Dylan, he’s like the sun—whether you like him or don’t like him, he’s gonna be there, and everything that came after him was affected by him.”
Foucault’s decision to become a full-time musician started out as a joke, back when he was working toward a degree in history at the University of Wisconsin. “When people asked me what I wanted to do, I’d say, ‘I’m gonna be a musician,’ just to watch the look on their faces,” he recalls. “They look at you like you’re crazy. And then I sort of stuck with it.”
It wasn’t long before the joke became something worth pursuing. “I found a little apartment in a small town, and I holed up,” he says. “I did substitute teaching or roofing to pay the rent every month, and once the rent was paid, I could afford to drink coffee or smoke cigarettes eight hours a day. Then I committed to make a record … I got a manager, and a booking agent, and then a career.”
His approach may be laid back, but Foucault is extremely prolific when it comes to his music. Since his first release in 2001, he has put out seven full-length albums, and has been touring nearly non-stop—at his peak he was touring almost 200 nights a year, playing 180 shows.
While his previous albums often feature full bands, Foucault says Horse Latitudes is unique because of the intent behind its creation. “I wrote the tunes with a band in mind, and I knew the band [before] I was going in,” he explains. “I knew the pedal steel guitarist, and he got me hooked up with the bass player and the drummer … I wrote those tunes knowing exactly how he’d hear the beat.” The result is a well-crafted album that whispers and swells, drawing the listener in with subtle compositions and vivid lyrical imagery.
But after a decade on the road, it is Foucault’s connection with a live audience that has made him the musician he is today. “You’re trying to get this relationship happening where you give to them and with any luck they give it back,” he explains. “[To] let them know you’re not just up on the stage, and not just a radio beacon—it’s a give and take, both sides.”
Jeffrey Foucault plays at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 24, at Don Quixote’s, 6275 Hwy 9, Felton. Tickets are $10/adv., $12/door. For more information, call 603-2294.