Folk artist Pokey LaFarge may be dominating the national stage, performing everywhere from A Prairie Home Companion to NPR and the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, but when you peel back the (well-deserved) hype and fame, you'll find that he is still a Saint Louis boy at heart. Yes, he may have been born in Illinois, but he now calls Saint Louis his home, and Saint Louis gladly calls LaFarge its own.
Saint Louis' Higher Education Center (HEC) TV station has recently interviewed Andrew Heissler aka Pokey LaFarge as part of their "State of the Arts" series, which highlights local artists and the overall performance arts scene of the city.
In the latest installment of “State of the Arts”, titled "Pokey LaFarge, Just a Plain Ole Midwestern Boy", LaFarge discusses living in the Midwest as well as how he became one of the most popular folk singer-songwriters in current years. He also adamantly denies any idea that his stage performances are him trying to "be retro" or act as a "museum piece" or "history display". His sound is his sound, period.
HEC's description of LaFarge that accompanies the video is so great, it bears quoting in full: "Close your eyes when Pokey LaFarge is singing and you feel like you’re transported back to the same era his 1946 Epiphone Spartan Archtop guitar was made. He sings new songs but they carry strong hints of old country swing, jump blues and jazz. His growing fan base loves it."
The story of LaFarge is incredibly apt for the kind of music he makes. He is a very self-made man; when a young Pokey set off to become a musician, he wasn't even old enough to vote and had not taken a single music lesson. Still, he was dead set on making a living with a guitar and his voice.
He loves the Midwest because it's not a very romantic place, especially compared to the coastal areas, but it's a place where people have to be strong to live. "It weeds out the weak," LaFarge states. "If you want to move to the Midwest, you have to have vision . . . you're not moving here to find yourself, you're not moving here to be cool."
LaFarge's interview with HEC-TV also touches upon his relationship with musician Jack White, his rise to stardom and becoming Pokey LaFarge, and his further thoughts on Saint Louis as a city and the Midwest as a region.
Local music fans can find more editions of "State of the Arts" at the HEC website. For more Pokey LaFarge, many of his live performances are now available online, such as his Tiny Desk Concert at NPR and at the 2013 Rhythm and Roots Reunion in Bristol.