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Have You Heard? #2: Jake Xerxes Fussell

Jake Xerxes Fussell

Singer, guitarist and folk music interpreter

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Welcome to Have You Heard – an interview series highlighting the people behind Bristol Beacon.

Each month we speak to colleagues, artists, fans and friends and ask them to share their thoughts on our transformed venue, as well as the music that matters to them.

Introducing…Jake Xerxes Fussell

@JxFussell

In this week’s edition, we spoke to North Carolina-based singer and guitarist Jake Xerxes Fussell.

Renowned for his ability to breathe new life into traditional folk songs by means of reimagining and repurposing them, he has toured alongside indie rock giants such as The Decemberists and Wilco, and gave a heartfelt performance for NPR at his Tiny Desk Concert in early 2022.

Ahead of his return to Bristol this Saturday – and in the midst of a week-long UK tour (which ends with an appearance at Green Man Festival!), Jake shared an insight into life as a touring artist, his preference for the charm of smaller, intimate venues, and his love for Quebec-based folk group, La Bottine Souriante.

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What have you been working on?

I’ve mainly been touring a lot off and on the past two years or so. I’m always working on songs here and there when I’m home – in between tours and what not – and sometimes I work on songs as I’m touring and like to see how they’ll evolve from night to night. I’m currently doing that with a couple of tunes – just feeling them out and hearing how they grow.

When I get back home from the UK and return to North Carolina I’ll be doing a weekly residency at a small venue in Chapel Hill called The Cave. I’m very much looking forward to that.

I’m slowly gathering and compiling material for a new record but I don’t have much to say about that just yet.

What does a stand-out live performance look like to you?

For me a great live experience usually requires the right crowd in the right room. That’s all it is, which sounds a bit basic and self explanatory but oddly it’s sort of a rare combination.

Don’t get me wrong – I love touring and playing shows and meeting people, and I am aware that I’m very privileged and fortunate to get to be able to travel and do this for my living. Many people don’t have the luxury and the mobility, of course.

I do find that I tend to favor a smaller and more “intimate” environment with a friendly staff and a crowd of people who really want to be there and ideally they also want me to be there. There are so many factors at play when people show up to a concert – various things that led them there- that sometimes the meaning of and the reason for the spectacle itself gets a little lost in the menagerie of the moment. Of course in some ways I appreciate both.

What are you listening to right now?

I like this Canadian band called La Bottine Souriante and their album ‘La Mistrine’. They’re a folk group from Quebec. For me that record is absolute bliss from beginning to end.

I also love this proto-bluegrass string band from North Carolina called Hard Drive and their latest album ‘Live at Rockbridge’. I listen to a lot of the jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim (FKA Dollar Brand) and have been reacquainting myself with REM’s early discography which I’d thought I knew like the back of my hand but it has surprised me.

I’m also becoming more of a fan of the band Prefab Sprout by the day, so that has been a lot of fun – they’re superb.

Have you heard? La Bottine Souriante – La Mistrine

(1994, Les Productions Mille-Pattes)

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