Mascara is expensive, and the way I figure it, Adam Faucett owes me roughly half a tube of it for the handful of times I’ve stood in the crowd, a perfectly adequate lash application wrecked by a four-and-a-half-minute exercise in cosmic humility called “Dust.” Like a lot of Faucett’s work, the tune is delivered “slow and loud,” as Faucett describes it, with drummer/vocalist Chad Conder and bass player Jonathan Dodson — Faucett’s musical telepaths for over a decade — as conduits, able to rise to a fever pitch and drop the bottom out the next moment. Faucett’s newest, “It Took the Shape of a Bird,” comes out Friday, June 29, and his full band Adam Faucett & The Tall Grass will celebrate that release with a show at the White Water Tavern Saturday, June 30, with Isaac Alexander. We talked with Faucett — deemed “Best Songwriter” by an esteemed board at our 2018 Central Arkansas Music Awards — ahead of the album release.
The new record starts with a song you’ve been playing live for a while, and one that — I’m sure I’m not alone in this — has ripped me to pieces. I mean, if there’s a darker opening line to an album than “Daddy died when I was 10, Momma soon there followed him … ,” it doesn’t come to mind. And that’s to say nothing of these ideas of displacement and wishing for invincibility. I have to assume you gave some thought to the album’s sequence. Why is this one first?
It’s probably the gnarliest song on the record. You know, I kinda just saw this record — since it was so personal — and it was like, “Oh, this batch of songs is kind of a bummer.” … It deals a lot with death, and right out of the bag, [“King Snake”] just kinda shines a light on the tone of the rest of the record in the first two sentences. You know, a lot of people didn’t like “Sparkman” from the last record because it was really negative, so I kinda took that feedback and put it right out front. Get the ball rollin’ real quick, you know what I mean?
Like a filter. If this is not for you, maybe the rest of the record isn’t, either.
Yep. Turn back now.
One thing that you have in common with really great songwriters is a sense of place. Central Avenue in Hot Springs pops up on the new record. And Camden. And in the past, Benton. Can you talk about your connection to Arkansas?
Well, born and raised here. Both sides of my family have been here for generations and generations. Over 100 years, maybe closer to 150. In South Arkansas. I don’t know, I just kinda feel like if you’re gonna tell a story, tell it on the stage that you know the best. And really get the details right. It’s kinda like Stephen King, you know, most of his books are set in Maine. It’s basically the same concept. It’s like, I know the seasons very well, no matter how erratic they are. You just know a place, and you know what it feels like to feel good in Arkansas. You know what it feels like to feel bad in Arkansas. Places and backgrounds, to me, are very important.
The other thing I’ve always loved about your work is the way your obsession with history shines through — especially some of those darker, weirder corners of the past. The ship that a 24-year-old Clifford Crease sailed out to recover the bodies lost in the Titanic disaster, for example. A storied clairvoyant named Edgar Cayce. Where did your infatuation with history come from, and why do you think you gravitate to it when you’re writing?
Well, the song “Edgar Cayce” is not about Edgar Cayce at all, and the song “Mackay Bennett” is not about the boat. I just used the reference of the boat to illustrate continuing to help someone who will never be able to be helped. With history, I’m one of these kind of nerds where I love history not for the sheer historical weight, but I see a lot of parallels and a lot of continuations. And just some stuff is just cool. Not many people know what the Mackay Bennett is. I wrote a song on my first record called “John Carter 1927” and I was blown away by how many people in our town don’t know the story of the lynching of John Carter in 1927 down on Broadway Street. And the song, it’s not like, you know, a historical account, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” Gordon Lightfoot. It’s just a nod to things that I find incredibly parallel to what I’m trying to get across. I dunno, I like history in the same way that I like singing about outer space, you know? It’s just there, and you can’t touch it. And unless you’re a nerd, a lot of people don’t really think about how that stuff actively plays a part in the world we live in.
Would you indulge us and name a few singers or songwriters whose style you love?
Sure. Honestly, man, in my brain, I would like the music to sound somewhere in the realm of Mazzy Star and maybe some earlier Cat Power and some elements of Sonic Youth. And then maybe take Hope Sandoval’s voice and switch it out with Percy Sledge. But I’m from Arkansas, so it’s gonna come out soundin’ a lot more hick-y than all that shit.