has a rather nifty way of describing the difference between his first album, 2012’s Signs and Signifiers
, and his just-released new album, Let The Good Times Roll
“The first record was the one that I always wanted to make and the second one was the one I always wanted to make but never thought I would be able to,” he says in a recent phone interview.
He refers to Signs and Signifiers
, which was originally released in 2010 on Hi-Style
Records and then reissued in 2012 on Rounder Records
, as a “labor of love” that he made “with no pressure at all.”
“It was a record I always wanted to make because I wanted to make a record that sounded like the rock ’n’ roll records that I loved,” says McPherson, a big fan of early Buddy Holly. “For the most part, it does.”
At the time of the album’s release, McPherson was working as a middle school art teacher. When the release picked up some traction and he was simultaneously laid off from his job, he went to Europe to play some festivals and hasn’t looked back.
“It was perfect timing,” he says. “I could do [music] as a vocation.”
With Let The Good Times Roll
, McPherson establishes himself as someone who can take early R&B and rock sounds and update them for modern times. The album has a great energy and the songs come across as really raucous and upbeat.
“The songs were asking for a different treatments this time,” says McPherson. “It was good to bring in an extra set of ears. I was thinking about more space and bigger sounds and bombastic sounds. [Producer] Mark Neill was the perfect guy to work with. The sounds were getting more expansive and the hooks were getting a little weird.
“It’s All Over But the Shouting” has such a cool retro vibe to it and benefits from a beefy guitar riff.
“I really like that song,” McPherson says when asked about the track. “I would like to make a rock ’n’ roll blues record where there was some psychobilly and we could push those experimental effects to the maximum. It’s one of the first songs I wrote. The first set of lyrics were so dark. I wanted to keep going with it until it was palatable to myself and others. It’s weird how things take shape.”
The Black Keys
singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach helped him write the ballad “Bridge Builder,” a song he says he was struggling to finish before Auerbach came into the picture.
“We spent all day just flipping ideas back and forth,” says McPherson of the writing session with Auerbach that took place at Auerbach’s Nashville studio. “I had the title and verses for the song but it hadn’t worked out at that point. He helped me bring it into the home stretch. That’s my favorite song on the record right now. I love the sound on that one. Dan is a very good collaborator. He’s not going to push his thing on you. He understands that the most important thing is the song. The song asks for what it needs and he helps develop that.”
The shimmering “You Must Have Met Little Caroline?” has some real noisy parts as McPherson croons “do you feel like I feel?”
“It’s a beat called the stroll,” he says of the tune. “It’s based on this dance they do in England. It’s a weird thing but around those beats sometimes, songs will come out of rhythms and grooves. I’m always thinking about people will move around to a song. That one was a weird one. [Producer] Mark Neill had this idea to put baritone guitar tabs thought the song with buzz on them. Man, it makes the song for me. It’s a nod to songs like Marty Robbins’ ‘Don’t Worry ’bout Me,’ which is this beautiful ‘60s ballad. And then all of a sudden in the middle section, there’s this fuzz guitar solo. That fuzz popped up not only in that song but elsewhere in the record because we loved it so much.”
JD McPherson, Dylan Pratt, 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 10, Beachland Ballroom, 15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124. Tickets: $16, beachlandballroom.com.