Kurt Vile to visit the Jefferson

Artist talks touring, influences and plans for the future


Kurt Vile will perform at the Jefferson next week.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Since his 2008 debut “Constant Hitmaker,” Kurt Vile has showcased his singular style through a string of stunningly rich and cohesive albums. From hypnotic, intricately-crafted folk songs to soulful, psychedelic rock, Vile’s music is beautiful and unmistakable. The last leg of his current tour kicks off at the Jefferson Theater Jan. 26 with backing band The Violators in support of his 2015 album “b’lieve i’m goin down…” A&E caught up with Vile to preview the upcoming show.

Arts & Entertainment: You last played the Jefferson in 2015. Are you looking forward to returning to Charlottesville?

Kurt Vile: Yeah! This is sort of our home stretch, and we’ve come into our own as a band — we can pull off the sort of soulful, raunchy thing. Never too slick, but for us, pretty slick. So I’m excited to come down there.

A&E: Have the songs evolved significantly since you started this tour?

KV: I’d say they’ve gotten kind of epic for the stage. Epic in the peaks and valleys of moods, dynamics and things, you know, it’s a well-rounded set — rock ’n’ roll, psychedelic, sort of hypnotic-folk kinds of things.

A&E: Your catalogue is pretty extensive — do you still pull from your older material?

KV: We definitely play songs from “Childish Prodigy,” “Smoke Ring For My Halo,” “Wakin on a Pretty Daze” and “b’lieve i’m goin down…” every night. My first couple albums, “Constant Hitmaker” and “God Is Saying This To You,” I don’t always play those songs in the set with the band. I’m going to go on a solo tour soon to Australia, and I’ll definitely be whipping out the classics. People can yell out requests, especially if it’s solo. I can whip out pretty much any song. I’m not opposed to playing early stuff. Maybe I’ll make a point to try and play some more of it.

A&E: Do you write much when you’re on the road, or does that mainly happen between tours?

KV: That mainly happens anywhere. Anytime. I could start writing a song anywhere. Usually it just takes picking up a guitar, or going over to a piano, but I’m always sort of writing things. But I don’t force it, either. I’m in no rush. I think that’s sort of the key to my writing, is to never be in a rush. Don’t force it.

A&E: What music have you been listening to lately?

KV: For the past couple years I’ve definitely been on some kind of country-roots kick, and American roots rock ’n’ roll, from reading Jerry Lee Lewis biographies, to George Jones autobiographies and a lot of Nick Tosches books. Me and my buddy Tom Scharpling keep talking about Kris Kristofferson. I’ve loved John Prine forever. Once you get into true, funky, roots American music, from primitive on through Nashville, really, it’s hard to get out, it’s all connected, it’s all intertwined.

A&E: Has that kind of music seeped into your own?

KV: In a classic sense. Often, when somebody asks me this I refer to when the Byrds went country, “Sweetheart of the Rodeo,” which is a good record, but it’s obviously so country, it’s just like out of nowhere, very country. [For me, it’s] more in the soul, the soulfulness. I’ve always sort of played country-influenced music, anyway, with the finger-picking and all that, so there’s just more power — to me — with subliminal influence. Just seeps in.

A&E: You had a guest appearance on “Animals” on HBO last year. How did that happen, and do you have plans to do other acting or voice work?

KV: I do like the idea of doing acting, especially if it’s funny. I thought the “Animals” thing was funny, I had a fun time doing that with them. I just didn’t like how “whiny stoner” I came off sounding, which was my own voice, but I did feel like we did a lot funnier improv on that bit. It’s nothing against them, they went for this thing and I gave it to them. I love the way they drew me, and I’m glad to be immortalized as a squirrel — and a stoner squirrel at that — and I got to make that sort of trippy stoner song. I’m proud of all those things. It’s almost like, it’s weird to hear yourself back in general. I just did this weird thing with Tony Hale, it was like a Christmas special … and I play a Christmassed-out version of “Wakin on a Pretty Day.” That was pretty weird, too. I would definitely be into being on a funny show, but I couldn’t put all of my energy into it, it has to be sort of close to my personality. I would even be into being in some movie with a dramatic role, as long as it spoke something of my true self. And chances are I would have to be a little stupidly funny at points. That’s the key.

A&E: What are you most looking forward to in 2017?

KV: We’re going to be on and off the road, even still, and I’ve been working on a couple projects. I’ve been working on a new record. I doubt my full-length will come out in 2017, but there will be a couple EPs or so. I’ll be working on the record a lot — I have been working on the full-length a lot.

A&E: Will the new full-length be in a similar vein as “b’lieve i’m goin down…”?

KV: I think all my music, you see where it’s coming from. I even think “b’lieve i’m goin down…,” if you look back at my earlier albums, it’s not far-fetched. There’s always new influence in there, and I’m always trying to take it further and top myself, but yeah, I can’t tell you how. I think it’ll be a little more epic. I would say in some weird way, it’s going to be a little more epic. I don’t know how.

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