Q&A: Damien Jurado

ERICA RIVERA | Updated 5/6/2013

The Seattle-based singer-songwriter on his career, politics and being "smaller than a speck of dust." He's at the Turf Club on Wednesday.

Damien Jurado.
Sarah Jurado

Damien Jurado is a Seattle singer-songwriter iconic to the Pacific Northwest. A master of his craft with a cult following, the veteran artist refuses to conform to any one genre. His often melancholy songs speak subtly to unrequited love and private despair.

Jurado, whose output has received substantial critical acclaim, has 11 studio albums under his belt and shows no sign of slowing down. His last release, 2012’s “Maraqopa,” was released on Secretly Canadian and produced with Richard Swift of the Shins.

We spoke to Jurado about his unconventional approach to music and his long-lasting career.

Q: You’ve been making music for so long. How do you keep it fresh and exciting, both for yourself and for your listeners?

A: I don’t know. I don’t really do it for the listeners. I do it for me. I’m always on that journey to take the music further. It happens naturally. It’s growth.

Q: Does it ever feel like a job?

A: It only feels like a job since I had kids. That’s the only reason. There are times I have to play when I’d rather not, but I have to make a living.

Q: Where do the stories and characters of your songs come from?

A: Mostly my imagination. They’re not based on anything real.

Q: Your catalog of music includes so many different instruments. Are there any you haven’t gotten to use yet that you would like to in the future?

A: Not that I can think of. I play guitar, and drums and bass. If I want something else, I’ll have someone else play.

Q: Your current tour includes several living room shows. Talk about your decision to do those and whether or not you think there a movement in the music industry to get back to that kind of setting?

A: I’m not sure if there’s a movement. I don’t pay attention to the music industry. I have friends who have done living room shows, like David Bazan. Growing up in high school, when I started doing music, the Teen Dance Ordinance went into effect in Seattle. The local government was shutting down all-ages places. We had no where to play except people’s houses. I like living rooms for the intimacy and because my music is quiet. To be honest, it could be anywhere—art spaces or churches. I prefer churches because of the acoustics.

Q: In an interview with Splendid Magazine you once said, “Politics and me, we're like lovers. I'm obsessed with politics.” Talk about how that informs your music today, if at all.

A: I’m a person who constantly changes. That’s old energy. I haven’t touched politics in years. I’m sort of starting to abandon it. I did the “kill television” thing and now I only know what I know about the world through hearsay.

Q: We hear you are working on your next album. What can you tell us about it?

A: It’s done. And it’s a surprise. It’s the next chapter of, or a second step from, "Maraqopa." That’s all I’ll say for now.

Q: Where do you see yourself in the grand scheme of the music community? With so much experience, do you feel you the need to usher in the next generation, to pass on the lineage?

A: I like helping artists. There’s quite a few I’ve helped in the past: Fleet Foxes, Head and the Heart, Father John Misty. All of them went on to be very successful in their own right. Knowing I had a huge part in that feels good. I’m the advice-giver. That’s a role I’m proud of. As for where I am on the spectrum ... I’m smaller than a speck of dust. And I’m OK with that.