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Music » Sound Stories & Interviews

Midwest Minimalist

Jeffrey Foucault's stripped-down songwriting



Jeffrey Foucault grew up in a small town set amongst the cornfields of Wisconsin, going to school, church and fishing with the same kids kindergarten to twelfth grade—a recognizable rural Midwest upbringing that set him on his path to becoming a troubadour country ballad writer. His description of his musical upbringing is as poetic as his sweet, rambling Americana songs.

"My dad wore a tie to work and played a knock-off Gibson with a chunk of the headstock missing where he'd backed over it with the car," his website reads. "Mom sang along."

The early influence of that Midwest landscape has molded the lyrical content, and rolling hills sound of his music. With a deep, whispering voice, a chunky guitar playing style, and a touch of twangy pedal steel and bluesy drawl, Foucault is cut from the same cloth as songwriting greats like John Prine, who shares Foucault's Midwest affinity.

"Bob Dylan has described John Prine's songwriting as Midwestern existentialism, and I always liked that. There's a minimalism bred in the bone out there," said Foucault in an interview with the Source. "The landscape is so open and often bleak, and you have to look hard to find the beauty, but it's there. It formed the template for my perceptions and my language, so in a way I never quite leave. I'm always there, I feel the gravity of the place working on me."

Perpetually stuck in a Midwest state of mind, Foucault also draws inspiration from the great American poets, but he doesn't consider his writing poetry, saying he spends more time reading it than writing it.

"I recently went fishing with the writer Jim Harrison out in Montana, and we talked about the poems of Jack Gilbert as we floated down the Yellowstone," said Foucault. "Jim Harrison and Jack Gilbert are poets, and I'm a traveling songwriter. Poetry informs what I do but the two forms are necessarily different."

Jeffrey Foucault with Melaena Cadiz

8 pm. Sat., Oct. 18

The Belfry, 302 E Main St. Sisters.


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