Poking Around with Pokey LaFarge

Poking Around with Pokey LaFarge by Big Earl Matthews

Editor’s note: Pokey LaFarge is scheduled to play at Fat Cat on May 11th. Tickets ($10, general admission, 21+) are available at tinyurl.com/pokey209

Official artist website: pokeylafarge.net

I had never heard of Pokey LaFarge before my friend Jen Allsup told me she was bringing him to town last February. I have since fallen in love with his music. His music is a mix of early jazz, string ragtime, country blues and western swing. His writing style is heartfelt and his stories are well told.

LaFarge is a long time resident of St. Louis, Missouri but these days his home is on the road. He has had the pleasure of opening for Jack White’s Blunderbuss tour, as well as for acts including The Raconteurs, Nils Lofgren, Southern Culture on the Skids, Wanda Jackson, and most recently, Old Crow Medicine Show at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

LaFarge has released three albums thus far. He won an Independent Music Award for Riverboat Soul, his most recent. He is currently working on a full-length album with the help of Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show.

I had the chance to ask LaFarge a few questions. Here is what we talked about-

BEM: There are so many tasks that go into creating and performing original music- writing, recording, travel and actually performing. What comes the easiest for you and what part feels the most like work? LaFarge:Over the years, performing has become the easiest for me. While I truly enjoy and love writing songs, it’s sharing my music with people, young and old that brings the most satisfaction. I put a lot of pressure on myself to write but performing is where I get to let myself go. I’ll say this- most people don’t realize how hard being a professional touring musician is. Late nights, early mornings, long drives, sketchy meals, etc. I love people, traveling and playing music. You have to love it and be a little crazy to make it.

BEM: I love playing to friends and family but, there is nothing like going up in front of a crowd that doesn’t know you and winning them over. I would imagine you have had some great experiences on the road as support for The Raconteurs, Nils Lofgren, Southern Culture on the Skids, Wanda Jackson and the Old Crow Medicine Show. Could you share with us a time when you feel like you won over the crowd and made a connection where there was not one before? LaFarge:Opening shows for Jack (White) put us in front of our biggest crowds. While a lot of them didn’t know who we were, they were very open minded. We seemingly won them over every night. It’s not too difficult to win over a crowd that doesn’t know you. Just smile, make eye contact and then sing and play your butt off.

BEM: Who are your Favorite songwriter/songwriters? LaFarge: Bob Wills/Tommy Duncan, Fred Rose, Lefty Frizzell, Hank Williams, Sidney Bechet, Louis Armstrong, Merle Haggard, Big Bill Broonzy, Sleepy John Estes, Sonny Boy Williamson, Wayne Hancock and Big Sandy.

BEM: We are blessed with a lot of talented local musicians and songwriters here in Modesto and I am a huge proponent of local music. Who from your hometown (St. Louis) would you suggest that we check out? LaFarge: Rum Drum Ramblers

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