We're back and excited to be releasing a video of one of our absolute favorite artists. DOUGMORE has been an active member of the Porch Stomp community for nearly as long as we've been around. He and I first met at the Mona's Bluegrass Jam on Avenue B shortly before the first Porch Stomp four years ago and I immediately knew that there was something special about his playing. Having only recently stepped into the world of folk music, Doug's banjo style served as a needed transition into understanding and enjoying idiom of bluegrass. Rather than incessant and unyielding, his approach to the instrument was considerably more subtle. Even over bluegrass standards, his sense of melody sent him darting and twisting across the fretboard, referencing worlds of musical dialect often unheard within the American folk lexicon. It is this fluency that allows Doug to transcend genre.
Months later, DOUGMORE came to play his first performance at the Haylaught (the first I'd heard his original material) and I was immediately taken by the gravity of his songwriting. A barrage of poetic metaphor via sheets of poetry, the DOUGMORE repertoire leaves the listener with impressions that are unavoidable. With similar facility to his banjo playing, his lyrics turn and tumble, carrying the listener along through stories of days long gone, stories that seem both other-worldly and intensely introspective. Doug's sound and approach could easily be defined as the magnification and exploration of a world within himself as both a grasp for perfection and an artist looking to re-define his idiom and identity. Perhaps this is why his work with Kate Copeland on their first joint record, DOUGMORE's debut Outer Boroughs is so powerful; in it's re-definition, it says more about Doug's personhood than his songwriting. His is a talent that can be re-shuffled and re-dealt time and time again such that virtuosity and artistic intent always shine through.
We were happy to snag DOUGMORE for a video shoot at Porch Stomp IV this spring. Feel free to take a listen and check out the interview below.
You clearly draw from a wide breadth of musical influences; what of these do you feel are unique to the DOUGMORE sound? Did any 'guilty pleasure' influences make their way into any of the writing or recording of the album?
As for the breadth of musical influence in my work, I draw from a colorful and varied palette, ranging from rhythmic sensibilities I've internalized from my studies of music from Africa and India, and the guitar playing of such folk heroes Bert Jansch, John Fahey, Paul Simon, Nick Drake, and the harping of Joanna Newsom. Since this fashion of meaningful self-accompaniment always seemed like a superpower to me, over the years I've studied classical guitar to supplement my own exploration within the centuries-old elegance and architecture of spanish guitar music and early music that has informed the way I like to write on banjo as well. Wielding a banjo background so steeped in the array of folk music-- be it primitive, historical, bluegrass, classical, and modern playing styles-- they've equipped me with my own unique inroad of interpretation of my influences for melodically playful, harmonically rich, polyrhythmic banjo concept as the setting for my singing and storytelling.
Your songwriting is also very literary in both content and aesthetic. Where did this love of literary songwriting come from, and who in your mind are the best (or your favorite) songwriters both historically and within the contemporary folk world?
My affinity for a slightly bardic approach to the writing on the album was inspired by my religious background in ancient text and biblical exegesis, a passion that found new vigor in my study of the classical greco-roman worlds, and medieval times/renaissance as a cultural baptism and restoration of ancient artistic virtues... I'm a big Shakespeare nut, his poetics and rhetorical brilliance always point north for me. For thousands of years, stories from these ancient pages sustained communities, and were shared over candlefire during western civilization's darkest moments. Legend and myth have always gripped me, as they've shaped imaginations and experience since time immemorial. I've always really admired figures from the british folk revival, but unwittingly did this fondness develop during my middle school obsession with Led Zeppelin, whose storytelling takes its pages from folklore, norse mythology, and even Tolkien. Also, Richard Thompson, known for his balladine ode to a motorcycle is written in the convention of english song-story tradition. That blows my mind, especially in translation by Bluegrass demigod Del Mccoury is best known for his performance of the song. Joni Mitchell's impressionistic lyricism also mystifies me, as she inverts and subverts story through portraits and perspectives of luminous emotional depth. Joanna Newsom has been my spirit animal for the shameless liberal arts flourish and vexing complexity she manages to bring to her writing, which I find empowering as i've come to reconcile my intellectual and emotional lives with my musical life. Truly meaningful writing to me is that which rewards the listener for multiple listens, revealing new meaning with each spin.
What do you feel is the role of the folk musician in todays culture?
I feel the role of the folk musician in today's culture should be defined by our generational reflection and response to the world and music we live in and have inherited. The protest songs of the 50s and 60s are not our voice, and I think the identity politics of personal authenticity is more essential now than it has been before. As millennials and snowflakes, it is our duty be a part of the conversation, as the last generation to have lived and survived most of our childhoods without cellphones or much technology in the way they have inundated the way we experience the world now, we have a metaphorical relationship to an eden we can't return to that will always be unique to us. Having lived through this threshold and doing our duty as writers and artists, how can we as folk musicians be a part of the conversation without keeping our heads in the sand of the escapism that is the allure of folk music, yet still manage to shape it for the next generation to inherit? I don't know, but I think it's incumbent upon us to find a way of exploring that liminal space in folk music-making. Historical performance is preservation, but the future is not acoustic-- what are the ways in which it should be? Will fetishizing preservationist virtues allow for true artistic development of any kind? A lot to think about there...
As a regular cog in the mechanism that is Porch Stomp, can you tell us a little about your experiences within the Porch Stomp community?
It has been a great privilege to have taken part and performed at Porchstomps throughout the years! Watching it grow has been a marvel, and its welcoming spirit fortifies a unified community that draws more impressive numbers and new friendship with each passing year. The Gov's Island ferry is a transport to a historic pastoral dreamscape, and the small neighborhood of porches encircling the quad is deeply moving to observe as new banjo slinging droves and familiar faces of folk-minded folks take the island by storm bringing instruments and such open hearts. Leading up to the big day, the community events that punctuate the year at the Haylaught provide an invaluable showcase opportunity for up and coming artists and veterans alike.
What advice can you offer to musicians new to the NYC music scene and looking to get involved in the folk world?
My advice would be to dare to be bold, don't let gatekeepers shut you out, persevere and express yourself. People will listen.
You can find more from DOUGMORE at his website, https://digdougmore.com/ or at his bandcamp linked below: