An interview with Chris Pureka


It’s been four years since Chris Pureka put out Dryland, her self-released album, and three years since we told you she was an out musician to watch. Her new album, How I Learned to See in the Dark illustrates the out singer/songwriter’s musical and personal progression. Fans of passionate and politically-driven folk-rock will enjoy Pureka’s approach to creating guitar-driven tracks with androgynous vocals on songs like “August 28th,” which she says is about moments:

the lonely moments and the sad moments, the mundane moments — all the moments that seem futile, all the moments that seem infinite and all the moments that seem like tiny miracles. It’s about sticking up for what you believe in and fighting through it. It’s about doing it together, with the people you love. And about sometimes having to do it alone.

She recently took some time to answer a few questions about her new album, Rachel Maddow and a possible move out west. What’s happened in your life between the recording of Dryland and How I Learned To See In The Dark that we’ll be able to hear on the album?
Chris Pureka:
I tend to include a lot of personal experience in my songs, so I think that I will refrain from going into too many details here. I think the main thing, anyway, is that I just got older. I am thinking about the world and myself differently. I am really proud of these songs. I think that they are a step in a more mature artistic direction. They are definitely darker and they go into deeper territory than my previous work.

One more specific thing, though, is that there are a few songs on this new record with some political elements. I have always been political but I have never incorporated that into my songwriting. With the 2008 election and other events of the past four years, politics have been so much in my consciousness. Over time, political themes slowly seeped into my songwriting. I watch The Rachel Maddow Show pretty much every day. I guess you could say that Rachel Maddow has influenced my songwriting.

AE: Are you still living in Northampton? How does where you live shape your sound or songwriting?
I do still live in Northampton, although I am considering a move in the fall. Location and its associated weather creep their way into a lot of my songs. I think that the seasons, and the acute seasonality of New England especially, give artists a really varied palette of moods to inspire them. For me at least, the changing of the seasons taps into different emotions and allows me to reflect on things differently.

AE: Last time we talked with you, you said you might consider moving to a big city at some point in your life — is it still a consideration?
Ah yes, the follow-up! I am considering moving across the country, to a small city actually. I don’t like big cities much at all. I am thinking of relocating to Portland, OR. I love it there. I just don’t love the rain. Lucky for me, I am typically only home about half of the year.

AE: What was your songwriting process like for the album? Is there an overall theme or concept?
After I released Dryland, I toured extensively for about a year and a half during which time I don’t think I wrote a single song. I can’t write when I am on the road. That is mostly because I need to be somewhat isolated to work on writing and being on tour, you are pretty much always around people. Also, there is hardly any spare time to work on anything when you are on tour.

After I got home from that long run, the songs barely trickled out. It was slow coming. The first song I wrote was Time is the Anchor. And I didn’t write another song after that for about 6 months. I think I needed that time to build up to something and to gather my thoughts.

There is a lot of reflection on the passing of time and growing older on this record. But, I would say that the dominant imagery deals with “light” and “dark”. Most of the songs hover on the darker side and almost all of them reference some kind of struggle and/or some kind of disillusionment. You know, a wholesome family record; the kind I am known for!

AE: What else do you have in the works, before or after tour?
Production-wise, the new record has a lot more going on than my previous projects — it’s more layered and has more of a focus on band arrangements. So, I am hoping to release some acoustic versions of some of the songs. I am hoping that most people will like the full band arrangements, since that’s what I spent the last year working on, but I know that some people will like the songs more stripped down. I don’t have a release date for that yet, but hopefully it will be out by the fall.

Check out this video of Chris in the studio


How I Learned to See in the Dark is available today.

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