Interview: Jeffrey Foucault Finds Freedom Through Discipline Onstage
In October, singer-songwriter Jeffrey Foucault released his 10th studio album, Salt as Wolves, and, since then, has been touring in support of the project. In those six months or so, Foucault has been performing the disc's new tracks with both a full band (electric guitarist Bo Ramsey, bassist Jeremy Moses Curtis, drummer Billy Conway and backup vocalist Caitlin Canty) and only Conway, his longtime touring partner -- and, as is wont to happen, those songs have grown and morphed.
"The tunes change, you know? They breathe as you go," Foucault tells The Boot, mentioning, specifically, "Hurricane Lamp" as one that's "dropped into a different gear," thanks in part to a shift in the way Conway drums on the tune.
There was plenty of room for shifting, Foucault admits, because the band assembled Salt as Wolves "very quickly": They took three passes at each song, and that was basically that.
"The process was super loose, and I thought that it had a certain swagger that I wanted the record to have, a certain amount of fire," Foucault says, adding, "We didn't really know these songs when we cut them, and so now we're learning."
Prior to working with Conway, and with the full band, Foucault toured solo -- and the switch has affected his live shows for the better. In a bit of an ironic twist, having another person (or multiple people) onstage with him has allowed Foucault more freedom, while also keeping him disciplined.
"With the right drummer -- and Billy is always the right drummer -- we could cover all this ground that I couldn't solo," Foucault notes. "If I was just walking around solo with an acoustic guitar, I could play a blues tune, I could play a country tune, I could play a folk song, but it didn't have the same range."
He continues, "When it's two people and it's live music, it's a conversation every night, and it's always a different conversation every night. It might be on the same topic, but the words, the vocabulary, the bent, the coloration, it's all different."
His setlist, for the most part, does not change night to night, but there's "so much space in the tunes," Foucault says, which brings about something different and new each night. And while they know these songs inside and out, that doesn't mean that performing them time and again gets boring.
"Sometimes I'll decide to change stuff and throw curveballs at [Conway], and sometimes he'll throw curveballs at me ... and that's really the best part about playing live, every night, with the same people or the same person: You develop this conversational thing," Foucault acknowledges. "It becomes dynamic in a way you can't replicate when you're on your own ... How fun is it to have a conversation with yourself?"
A Wisconsin native who now lives in Western Massachusetts, Foucault says that while his East Coast life hasn't found its way into his music, his childhood in the Midwest certainly has.
"The Midwest, I think, breeds a particular attention to detail because it's less visually compelling or immediately overwhelming than the Mountain West or the California coast or a lot of the places around the country ... and then, too, you get those harsh, bleak, windy winters," Foucault explains. "[No matter where I write them], my songs still live in the Midwest."
Foucault's "most natural connection to the world," however, comes from fly fishing, which he does regularly when not on the road.
"You can walk through a landscape and not pay attention to anything in particular and just try to keep your mind open, and I've certainly done plenty of that," Foucault says. "[But when] you have a point of focus, it changes your awareness.
"For me, it's a way to get inside and a way to get outside," he continues. "It's meditative, you know?"
Salt as Wolves is available for purchase via iTunes and Amazon, or through Foucault's official web store. A complete list of his May tour dates is below; additional dates in June and July are available on Foucault's official website.
Jeffrey Foucault, 2016 Spring Tour Dates:
May 10 -- Los Angeles, Calif. @ Hotel Cafe
May 11 -- Santa Ynez, Calif. @ Tales From The Tavern
May 12 -- Felton, Calif. @ Don Quixote's
May 13 -- San Francisco, Calif. @ Brick & Mortar
May 14 -- Redding, Calif. @ Vintage Wine Bar
May 15 -- Arcata, Calif. @ Arcata Playhouse
May 18 -- Seattle, Wash. @ Triple Door
May 19 -- Portland, Ore. @ Alberta Rose Theatre
May 20 -- Bellingham, Wash. @ Green Frog Tavern
May 21 -- Spokane, Wash. @ Bartlett
May 23 -- Bozeman, Mont. @ Live From the Divide