Folk singers from Woody Guthrie to Joan Baez have offered their lyrics during times of division and unrest. In just the first month of 2017, we’ve seen massive demonstrations and changes in national policy—so Joe Purdy may be just the musician we all need right now.
Folk troubadour Purdy plays our Naked Soul concert this Friday, and we spoke with him about his music, inspirations, and principles. Read on to hear what he has to say about his rituals and why he says he’s “pretty ambitious for a hillbilly.”
What other art forms or inspirations influence your music?
I think if you’re an artist it’s hard not to be inspired by a piece of art that moves you, regardless of its medium. I love great albums, paintings, photographs, films, sculptures, even landmarks and architecture. Pretty much any piece of work that has genuine evidence of a human’s soul in it. If I can recognize that in something, I’m usually a fan.
Lately, my mind has been more occupied with current events, searching for ways to get a positive message through to people in these times of great cynicism, anger, and doubt.
What makes the Rubin a good fit for you and your music?
I sure hope I’m a good fit for the Rubin! I know that I am very excited to play there, I love joining the atmosphere of a place that dedicates itself to preserving art and expression. I’m grateful that the Rubin exists and look very forward to being a part of it for an evening!
What can visitors expect at your performance?
I’m going to speak and sing my mind. That’s what I’ve got. I’m a folk singer, now more than ever. People can expect me to be genuine and honest, perhaps a little clumsy in my presentation, but with a clear message.
Do you have any mantras or rituals you live by?
There are definitely some principles I try to hang on to. I was lucky. I had a mother and father who not only taught me, but showed me by example things like honesty, respect, and kindness. I’m far from perfect, I’ve made as many mistakes as anyone, but those simple concepts are the ones I keep returning to.
I try not to fall back on ways of living or thinking simply because they’re easier. I want to be better. I want my conscience to grow, and as it does, I want to take action accordingly and encourage others to do the same.
Pretty ambitious for a hillbilly, I know. But you did ask.
When you are out of sorts and want to bring yourself “home,” is there a particular touchstone phrase you like to sing or song you like to play?
“Wildwood Flower.” It’s the first song I ever heard my old man pick out on guitar. Something about playing it always takes me back to that feeling of sitting outside his bedroom door as a kid listening to him play when he thought no one was there. As far as memories go, that’s a fine one.