B&L: What animal do you associate yourself with (given our ties to oxen)?
Foucault: I ate a young bear once in Alaska, but only after asking his permission. My dreams didn’t bother me. The first time I met the writer Jim Harrison I’d spent the morning on the West Boulder river near Livingston, MT fishing with the poet Chris Dombrowski, and between leaving the river and getting to Jim’s place – a drive of an hour or so – we saw five bears. The next time we went to see Harrison two black wolves crossed the river upstream ahead of us and then on reaching the other side they howled in the daylight a hundred feet away. I don’t associate myself with any animal, but I put myself in relationship to them when I can.
B&L: Why music? Why do you seek it? Why do you create it? How’d it come calling to you?
Foucault: When I was a boy my Dad would come home tired from work and sit down at the piano, or grab his guitar, and sometimes my Mom would sing along. When they did I noticed they looked like different people. I wanted to be one of those people.
B&L: What’s the making of a great show?
Foucault: Our hospitality rider says French wine, Mexican beer, hot coffee, and tap water. If these four things show up, we can generally take care of the rest.
B&L: Let’s talk about your latest recorded effort, “Salt as Wolves.” What sort of goals did you have for yourself when you set out to make this record?
Foucault: I wanted to make a blues combo record in the spirit of the Chess Records from the 50’s that I love, and I wanted to put Billy Conway in a room with Bo Ramsey, and sit between them. I wanted to make a record that felt and moved like a record, one that felt like it happened at a particular place and time, without making that place or time easy to locate.
B&L: “Salt as Wolves” was released in 2015. You have a new record in the works?
B&L: Is songwriting an easy or arduous process for you? Are you a fly by the seat of your pants kind of writer, or do you have to schedule “office hours.” Do you enjoy the act of writing a song?
Foucault: If you take no joy in writing you’re writing for the wrong reason, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy exactly. I explained puzzles, and fishing, to my eight year-old this way: if it’s too hard it’s no fun; if it’s too easy it’s no fun. Like anything, writing is difficult to do if you don’t show up.
B&L: How does your lady, Kris Delmhorst inspire or inform the way you write? Do you guys have songwriting pow-wows while lounging in the yard or around the house?
Foucault: She’s not my lady, I’m her man. She’s a great songwriter and a deeply educated but intuitive musician. Our processes are real different. I hunt, she gathers.
B&L: You’re from Wisconsin, but if I remember correctly, you’re based in New England. What brought you here? Are you a football guy? If so, is it the Packers or the Patriots?
Foucault: I grew up in Wisconsin and it’s still home as much as anywhere. I moved here to get married, and then life got busy and I owned a house. I perch lightly. As to football, I grew up in a neighborhood of all boys playing tackle ball up through our college years when we all got heavy and slow and started breaking ribs, legs, fingers… I’d trade every game I ever watched on TV for one with my brothers and our friends. The NFL has a morality problem that makes it look more and more like bread and circus, with its pageantry and nostalgia, flags and fighter planes, all built on the physical destruction of the players. It turns my stomach.
B&L: What are you looking for folks to take away from the music of Jeffrey Foucault when they place themselves in a position to experience it?
Foucault: A couple albums, a T-shirt, maybe a poster?
B&L: What’s one tune (or, heck, a couple) that exists out there in the ether that blows you away that you wish you had written yourself?
Foucault: There are hundreds if not thousands that blow me away, and I don’t wish I’d written any of them. I have the joy of hearing them and if I had written them they wouldn’t make me feel less lonely, or more human, which is what I rely on them for. This morning I woke up hearing “The River of Real Time” by Rainer Ptacek. That’s a hell of a song.
B&L: What can folks expect when they come out to see you perform at the Word Barn on February 24th? I love that you’ve got Billy Conway in your band. Are you a Morphine fan?
Foucault: I love everything Billy Conway ever played on, Morphine no exception. Folks can expect us to show up, and look different from them, and stay out of sight until show time, and then walk into a dark room and sit in a brightly lit place and tell the truth for about 75 minutes. That’s our job and we like it fine.
B&L: Question number 12. If you could have a dozen of anything, what would that dozen of something be?
Foucault: Days in a row, with nothing to do but fish.
Jeffrey Foucault will visit the Word Barn in Exeter on Friday, February 24th. Tickets are available here.