Conversations with Stuart Pearson
Today we’d like to introduce you to Stuart Pearson.
Hi Stuart, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I grew up on Long Island and as a kid, I spent my summers on my grandfather’s farm in Wisconsin. So I had a pretty idyllic childhood where I was a city kid with a dash of farm kid. I was born with petite mal and would frequently stop breathing – I was hospitalized a few times and drowned once during a seizure when I was 15. So I always had a fascination with death and the weird dream world we all live in by day and by night. Seriously – what is this weird thing we do every night? We lie down and “unexist” for hours at a time. And if we don’t, we die. WHAT IS THAT?!?! At seven yeas old I started plunking on my father’s old player piano and every note felt like a vertical steel beam – I could see and feel these sounds and when I discovered chords they felt like forests. I remember my eyes itched when I hit my first “C” chord. Absolute witchcraft.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Who gets a smooth road in this life? As a musician, you CANNOT have it easy – otherwise, your fingers don’t get calluses. I’m from the “long-ago”… before internet marketing when every record company had a bouncer wearing coke spoon necklaces at the door. If you didn’t have chops you probably didn’t have a chance. I didn’t have the needed chops so I festered in obscuro-land. Now it feels like talent is almost a commodity – there are SO MANY extremely talented artists and bands out there all chasing our eroding attention spans. So I decided a few years ago to lean into my roots and do what’s called Dark Americana / Western Gothic music. It’s the weird cousin of country and folk music that somehow ends up in your basement during family get-togethers. So while we all are essentially tripping over EDM and hiphop songs about sex or empowerment, I’m making weird, evil cowboy tunes about graves and desert buildings. What is wrong with me?!?
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I guess if I had to give your readers some comparables, I suppose my music lies somewhere between the tents of Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen and Johnny Cash. I like to sing real low and bang on things – picture frames, things in the kitchen. I play a bunch of instruments and I try to make every song its own parade. The first Dark Americana album, “Stories and Songs” has a psychedelic podunk feel to it. The mule train definitely grazed in the ganja field on that one. The latest album is “Mojave” and has a more contemporary sound but still gives you plenty of banjo and yee-ha’s along with more modern production values. I’m working on the third album now and it’s squirming and wiggling in my hands – I want it to be one thing and it wants to be something else. Definitely a bigger, scarier version of what I’ve been doing. I’m hoping the neighbors don’t call the cops from all the noise I’m making. “Mojave” is being released on March 24th on Vinyl and CD worldwide on MAY I Records in France (part of the PIAS/Integral family). And the new album, “American Gothic” will be dropping in late Spring.
My wife/writing partner Hunter Lowry and I make lots of videos for the songs, and they tend to be on the dark side of life. Maybe they’re the best introduction to what we do. We have two characters that show up in all the videos – especially Kilroy, who is the Angel of Bad Omens – he wears a heavy coat, monk cowl, plague mask and derby. He’s sort of the ambassador of our music. The other character is the Cowboy – he’s sort of the “everyman” who keeps finding himself in weird places. Videos give us the opportunity to expand on the themes of each song and hopefully creep you out a little more.
Have you learned any interesting or important lessons due to the Covid-19 Crisis?
Yes. Don’t make plans too far in the future. Masks are excellent breath checks. Love the people you love and remember that even if they don’t agree with you on some things that seem beyond obvious to you, they are still good people trying to figure out this weird world on their own terms. Since nothing makes sense anymore, don’t demand logic from anyone.