Pokey LaFarge returns to Sisters stage
Last updated 8/16/2022 at Noon
Pokey LaFarge returned to Sisters after 10 years away, for the 2022 Sisters Rhythm & Brews Festival last weekend. LaFarge played the Sisters Folk Festival in 2012 and was brought back to Sisters for this year’s Rhythm & Brews Festival for a unique set. LaFarge sat down with The Nugget for an interview ahead of his set Saturday evening.
LaFarge was born in Bloomington, Illinois, two hours south of the city of Chicago. Around 13 or 14 years old, he began getting into music and classic rock, listening to Bob Dylan, Bill Monroe, and the Grateful Dead, all of which you can hear as influences in his music today. He didn’t grow up in a musical family.
“I grew up in a basic family from Illinois playing baseball and sports,” he said.
Throughout his teenage years, he kept up with his passion for music, but also a passion for literature and travel.
“I traveled a lot with my family when I was young, so I think I got the travel bug early in life and wanted to be out on the road,” said LaFarge.
He read Jack Kerouac’s novel, “On the Road,” and moved around, pursuing his love for music and songwriting, forming and playing with different bands along the way. LaFarge hitchhiked across the country after his van broke down, and he hitch-hiked all the way to Eugene, Oregon, before returning to the Midwest and pursuing his musical career.
He traveled from Madison, Wisconsin, to Louisville, Kentucky, and then settled in St. Louis, Missouri in 2007, when his musical career began to take off. After 10 years in St. Louis, he moved west to Los Angeles with his girlfriend, Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Addie Hamilton.
LaFarge has been in the music industry for many years, releasing his first album, “Marmalade,” in 2006. He has never categorized himself in a particular genre.
“I have no definitive process or genre, a combo of different styles I was influenced by,” said LaFarge.
LaFarge was especially influenced by Bill Monroe and the bluegrass sound mixed with singer-songwriter mountain music.
“My sound has evolved over time, but it is for sure considered Americana,” he said.
During the Sisters Rhythm & Brews Festival, LaFarge played some Howlin’ Wolf songs.
“The idea came from Joe and Jenn Rambo and [me] for a one-of-a-kind show at a blues festival, playing a handful of his songs. It felt especially fitting. I’ve been listening to his music since I was a kid and we thought we could bring something different to the audience,” he said. “It’s kind of my take on his music.”
Howlin’ Wolf helped shape the genre to what it has evolved to today.
LaFarge released an album in 2020, “Rock Bottom Rhapsody,” and was set to tour the record when the pandemic hit, right before a set of shows at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. During his time in Austin, he got to work on his latest album, released in 2021, “In the Blossom of Their Shade.”
“This album represents light out of darkness and one of peace and love and joy and a record that is true to me and honest to myself,” he said. “I write music because I feel like I have to; it is one of the callings on my life, and that’s the reason I started playing music.”
When LaFarge isn’t on the road touring or writing and recording in a studio, he is living and working at his home in Camden, Maine, where he now lives just down the road from Addie Hamilton. LaFarge works on a farm and tends his backyard garden.
“It’s a natural thing to work with the earth and to toil in the field and grow our own food,” he said.
He enjoys not living in a city and getting back to the roots, literally and figuratively.
“I was looking to do something different besides music and Maine was the perfect place to do that,” he said.