As a visual artist, Broken Arrow, Okla., native JD McPherson is well versed in the process of working within clearly defined formal parameters, and he employs a similarly rigorous discipline with his music. On Signs & Signifiers (Rounder, April 17), McPherson’s seductively kickass debut album, produced by JD’s musical partner, Jimmy Sutton, this renaissance man/hepcat seamlessly meshes the old and the new, the primal and the sophisticated, on a work that will satisfy traditional American rock ’n’ roll and R&B purists while also exhibiting McPherson’s rarefied gift for mixing and matching disparate stylistic shapes and textures. See him tonight at The Earl.
What’s the first gig you ever attended?
My father took me to a Blues festival in Tulsa when I was about 12 or 13. He wanted to see Elvin Bishop. I remember being really moved by the music of Flash Terry (a Tulsa blues man) and Elvin’s band was incredible. The crowd that evening were mostly in their 40s and 50s, and I remember they were stoked that a kid was there dancing and clapping and having a good time. I also remember having an excellent bowl of chili at that festival. It was the first time I ever had a slice of raw onion with my chili, a ritual I strive to complete to this day.
What is the best gig that you ever played/performed?
The best time I ever had on stage was playing with my band at Cains Ballroom, Tulsa, OK. Cains is a musical institution; it’s the home of Bob Wills and EVERYONE from Hank Williams to the Sex Pistols has played there. It’s an amazing ballroom, with a spring-loaded dance floor and portraits of hillbilly and western swing musicians lining the walls. It was such an honor to play that room. It was also special because it was the first time my family was able to see me perform, as well as my former students!
What is the best gig you have ever seen?
I can’t nail down a favorite, but a few memorable gigs were my first Flaming Lips concert, seeing Alison Krauss & Union Station at the Brady Theater (they have achieved true mastery at what they do), seeing Peter & The Test Tube Babies in an abandoned shopping center in OKC, and getting to finally see Little Richard was pretty emotional for me as well.
What is the gig you would most like to play?
I want to open for the Rolling Stones on their final tour SO BADLY I CAN TASTE IT. I’d love to play Royal Albert Hall. I’d love to do something with Irma Thomas. I already got to share a stage with Lemmy and Chuck Berry simultaneously, so that’s pretty good right there.
What would be the lineup for your dream gig?
I have the best band in the world. So they would have to be there.
Catch JD McPherson playing The Earl, Nov. 8th