Name: Pokey LaFarge aka Andrew Heissler
Occupation: Musician, writer, actor
Current release: Pokey LaFarge's new album In The Blossom of Their Shade is out October 15th 2021 via New West.
If you enjoyed this interview with Pokey LaFarge and would like to find out more about his work, visit his official homepage. He is also on Instagram, Soundcloud, and twitter.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
Almost always out of nowhere and for me this first question can only be answered by God. The creative process comes from Him. Very often early in the morning and all the way until dinnertime. Then it more or less stops.
The second question: dreams are very difficult for me to do justice to. I don't often create from my dreams because dreams so often slip away before you can put them down in a song or verse.
Other songs and personal relationships as well as reading Psalms have been a bigger influence lately.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a visualisation of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
No need for a concrete idea. It always starts sporadically with a one line phrase, either musical or lyrical, or I’ll just be playing the guitar and a melody will pop in my head. Only then do I begin to visualize.
However, nothing is chance.
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do research or create early versions?
My most profound research is living life and listening to a lot of music.
I have been blessed to be able to write pretty much anywhere in any situation as long as I’m comfortable there. That takes time. But the place doesn’t have to be stylish; doesn’t have to be clean or cozy.
However, complete isolation is encouraged.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
No rituals other than maybe coffee and the daytime.
When do the lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from? Do lyrics need to grow together with the music or can they emerge from a place of their own?
Sometimes I start with lyrics— a poem, a few random notes, or even just a title before the music comes in. But the majority of the time there is a pretty strong melodic idea in place before lyrics come into the picture.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
Passion and playfulness. Excitement and wordplay. Lot’s of color. Originality. When I feel like I can know the person by the very words they speak.
Once you’ve started, how does the work gradually emerge?
Playing it over and over and over again and editing a bunch.
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
I would mostly agree. Sometimes the story of just two people can really be about five people. Little traits of a bunch of people you’ve known or just made up and be adopted by the actual characters you’re writing about.
Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up,
pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?
Indeed. It’s only natural. A song or a poem starts with an idea. But an idea is just a catalyst for another idea.
And with songs they’re never finished because you can alter them every night while performing them if you wish to.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
There’s always been an element of spirituality to what I do but for the longest time I wasn’t aware of it. Most of the time I used my gifts to serve myself.
Now that I’m aware of God and now that I follow Jesus, I aim to lift every song up to Him. ‘All things from Him through Him for Him’ (Romans 11:36)
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
A version of a song is only finished when it’s mastered and printed and the vinyl gets delivered to your house. However a song is never finished. There can be many versions to come. It’s inevitable. Just ask anyone who’s played a certain song over and over for a number of years.
What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
I’ve only recently started producing my own records. I may not have the technological wizardry but I enjoy undertaking the production process now more than I did before. I feel as if I don’t have much to lose now. Soul over slick production any day.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
Well said. ‘empty nest syndrome.' You gotta let the well run dry before it can overflow again. Takes time.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't in more mundane tasks?
I believe there should be purpose in everything we do. Everything we think, say, and do has an effect on everyone in the world and therefore in the generations to come. We are all connected.
But of course music is not the same as making a great cup of coffee. I am not the same as you just as you are not the same as a cow. We are all different and with different purposes and power. But the source is the same and that’s where we get our worth from. Praise God.