Damien Jurado is more a medium than songwriter
Damien Jurado is most often described as a singer-songwriter, and on the surface it’s an absolutely accurate designation as far as music labels go. The majority of the Seattle-based musician’s output has been driven by slow-boiled acoustic guitar and a pensive voice—other musicianship serving more as a framing for songs than genuinely part of the structure.
But to hear it described by Jurado himself—who will be entertaining at the Crepe Place on Wednesday, March 23—‘writing’ is not really part of the process of his song creation at all. ‘Channeling,’ however, might be a more accurate term.
“I have this theory and a belief that the songs are their own thing; their own entity or being, I guess,” explains the 16-year music veteran. “I think they’re always out there and I’m just tapping into them, so they already exist. And at that point I’m nothing but a mediator between the song and the audience.”
Thus, it’s not hard to picture the formation of Jurado’s songs as somewhat clairvoyant. Small, intimate moments are common obsessions of Jurado’s lyrics, described with the precision of someone using a crystal ball to sneak a peek into the lives of Middle Americans. But such detail always begs the question of how such beauty can be conveyed without a basis in real, human experience.
“Are there certain parts of me in the songs? Yeah, for sure sure,” levels Jurado. “But I think it’s like running water through a rusty pipe—you’re bound to get some of that rust in your cup. I’m just like that rusty pipe.”
In this way Jurado leaves no ambiguity as to what type of artist he sees himself as. Being more a vessel for untold stories of a forgotten part of the country than someone who has a necessary agenda, the musical aspect of his art serves a far different purpose in the scheme of conveying those stories.
“I think I’m more of a storyteller than a songwriter, number one,” the guitarist says. “For me it’s sort of like the music has got to be very much like a score to a movie, so I always look at the music part of it as a score to the lyrics I’m writing.”
It’s absolutely no surprise then, that since 2008 Jurado has been working on a screenplay that he hopes to eventually have filmed. Fans who want a hint as to the story can scour the lyrics to “Medication,” from Jurado’s 2000 breakthrough, Ghost of David, upon which the composition is loosely based. Both the song and the story built from it are characteristic of Jurado’s larger themes—the everyday hardships of average people just trying to get by. However, it differs from some of Jurado’s more minimalist storylines: “It’s a pretty intense story,” he explains.
The project is also representative of Jurado’s output insofar as it’s not necessarily bookended—the story functions more like a window into the lives of its characters rather than a narrative with definitive boundaries. Perhaps it’s life imitating art, because it seems to have a hard time winding down.
“It’s my first time ever [writing a screenplay], so I’m sort of brand new at the whole thing, you know?” he admits. “It’s going really great; it’s just a matter of finishing it correctly, I guess. There are multiple endings to this thing, so I’m just figuring out how I want to end it.”
Damien Jurado performs at 9 p.m. Wednesday, March 23, at The Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $10. For more information, call 429-6694.
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