Singer-songwriter Jeffrey Foucault reflects on his career: ‘I don’t see an end in sight’

  • Americana singer-songwriter Jeffrey Foucault. COURTESY PHOTO/JOE NAVAS

  • Americana singer-songwriter Jeffrey Foucault says while his first songs had been about where he grew up in Wisconsin, his music started to broaden to involve all of America and other parts of the world he visited. COURTESY PHOTO/JOE NAVAS

  • Americana singer-songwriter Jeffrey Foucault. COURTESY PHOTO/JOE NAVAS

  • Americana singer-songwriter Jeffrey Foucault says his serious entry into music during the late 1990s began with him opening shows at Cafe Carpe. COURTESY PHOTO/JOE NAVAS

Staff Writer
Published: 10/6/2021 3:02:42 PM

Two decades since the release of his first record, Americana genre-meshing singer-songwriter Jeffrey Foucault’s musical journey has been “a story that never ends.”

In a world of music that Foucault described as lacking longevity, the 45-year-old described his come-up as being “a needle in a haystack” as opposed to “a needle in a stack of needles.” Having been discovered at a time when independent music creation and distribution was far less viable an option, his home-recorded debut project helped sculpt an artistic identity early. Now, having signed to Northampton-based Signature Sounds, toured across oceans, and written countless songs, Foucault looks to stay true to this identity, honing it with no plans of stopping.

Growing up in Wisconsin, Foucault said his serious entry into music during the late 1990s began with him opening shows at Cafe Carpe, a bar and popular live music venue in Fort Atkinson, when he was around 21.

“The bar for entry into the industry used to be very high,” Foucault said.

He said that playing at lively local spots was key to success as an independent musician back when artists had no access to third-party distributors, streaming services, and other modern-day conveniences. He said that nowadays, because “your 13-year-old cousin can record into their phone, put it out into the world, and even get free distribution,” getting notoriety is “like a poor person walking into a gas station and buying a lottery ticket.”

Even when artists succeed at blowing up nowadays, he added, the magnitude of the achievement is different.

“When we talk about it being easy to be an independent, it’s like saying that you’re the king of a desert island,” Foucault said.

Foucault’s grind to get noticed the old-fashioned way paid off. Soon enough, the owner of Cafe Carpe took notice of his talent and introduced him to other acts. Folk musician Peter Mulvey ended up seeing Foucault’s potential and introduced Foucault’s music to his management. Within two years, Foucault had not only finished his debut album “Miles from the Lightning” at 24 years old, but he had began touring. Within five years, he was playing out 175 nights per year.

Foucault’s music reflected this change of lifestyle. He said that while his first songs had been about where he grew up, his music started to broaden to involve all of America and other parts of the world he visited.

“When you’re gone long enough, you’re truly estranged from where you came from,” Foucault said.

One of the most dramatic influences on Foucault’s music during this nomadic period found him while he was touring in the United Kingdom. There he met folk musician Kris Delmhorst, a Boston-based musician, with whom he eventually fell in love.

The two decided after a period of being together that they could use a change of scenery and moved to Greenfield in 2004 as Foucault entered the final stages of producing his second album “Stripping Cane.” Shortly after, Foucault began working on music with a “seasick feeling” about falling in love in America while learning about the “crookedness” that grew apparent from war.

After living in Greenfield for six years and becoming parents, the couple moved to Shelburne Falls, where they have lived ever since. Even after all these years living in Franklin County, though, Foucault said he can’t quite pinpoint how the area has impacted his music.

“I don’t think I know yet,” Foucault said. “I feel like I’m still learning this landscape.”

To an extent, not knowing what he’s gained seems in line with how Foucault perceives his career trajectory as a musician in general, citing “unresolved questions” as a motivator for picking up the pen.

“Every time you pick it up, it’s like a story that never ends and you want to learn where it ends up,” Foucault said.

The skeleton of his sound, however, remains clear. Foucault said that at this point in his career, he’s focusing more on refining his technique and polishing his sound than innovating something entirely new. He admitted that this is partially due to being part of a pattern he’s noticed across American pop culture.

“American culture has gotten to the point where we’re more concerned with what already happened,” Foucault said. “Most of the music I listen to is made by dead people.”

This isn’t to say that Foucault is limited in his musical vocabulary, though. He referenced Ariana Grande and Billie Eilish as examples of artists that he’s discovered through his daughter that he enjoys. His own taste, while relatively antiquated, spans across genre to inspire him artistically.

“I feel like my conversation with music is a conversation with everyone who ever made music,” Foucault said.

Foucault said that as a child, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis ruled the household. In his adulthood, Foucault draws inspiration from Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Greg Brown, John Byrne, and jazz musicians like Benny Carter and Miles Davis.

“If you get good enough at what you do, you’re playing jazz in no matter what you play,” Foucault said about jazz’s influence on his music, noting that he has listened to Miles Davis records religiously into his adulthood. “Jazz is the most American music we have.”

Foucault said that he doesn’t have a desire to stop making music anytime soon, even with his taste in music currently not in the mainstream and personal issues arising. One of his greatest obstacles thus far has been the cancer diagnosis of his road partner and best friend, drummer Billy Conway, that was given in 2018. Foucault said that since he released his last album “Blood Brothers” that same year, he hasn’t recorded any new music during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, Foucault released “Deadstock: Uncollected Recordings 2005 – 2020,” a collection of archival songs that gave fans something new while he awaits another chance to play alongside his immunocompromised friend.

“Everything is in a holding pattern,” Foucault said.

As summer drew to a close, though, Foucault seemed to be finding his rhythm. This summer, Foucault performed at Greenfield’s Green River Festival with his wife. He also remains optimistic that he and Conway can reunite musically in autumn, with hopes to be in the studio by this month.

Outside of music, Foucault said that he’s been invested in poetry and hopes to release a poetry book within the next few years. Until then, though, Foucault said that there is “no pressure” to release anything, but that his passion for artistic expression shows no signs of fading.

“Your favorite record is the one you haven’t made yet,” Foucault said. “Every time.”

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.




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