[PSYCH-FOLK] Besides leading alt-country's Old Joe Clarks through the late '90s, singer/guitarist Mike Coykendall has accomplished a helluva lot since moving here from 'Frisco in 1999. He's produced several albums for artists whose impact reaches far beyond Portland—such as M. Ward and Richmond Fontaine—and also released his own hushed, effects-laden solo debut, Hello Hello Hello
, last year. More recently, Coykendall (pronounced 'Kirkendall') released a self-titled acoustic EP to offer audiences while on a world tour with Ward (Coykendall plays guitar and bass in Ward's band). WW recently chatted with the songwriter over coffee near his Hawthorne home.
WW: How does it differ, writing for your band versus solo?
Mike Coykendall: When I wrote a band song, I'd work very hard to make it as perfect as I could; then we'd learn it together. Alone, I can be more sporadic, lazy, experimental. If I sat down and played some of those [solo] songs on acoustic guitar, they wouldn't sound that great. But they're more recording pieces than songs.
It seems to me that, even vocally, you sound different solo than fronting the Clarks; with them, you were almost presenting a character.
Well, I grew up in rural Kansas, so I have an honest connection to that rural thing. But I grew up on Johnny Cash and Syd Barrett; Barrett, John Lennon, the Beatles—not very Kansas kind of music. With the Old Joe Clarks, I was not letting in that side at all. Now, I can let in the freaky shit.
So, your 'Blue Rooms' studio is actually your home?
Yeah, it's pretty low-key. It's literally a house, with a lot of instruments and microphones. It's left like an attic—not real pro, but it works.
You record to tape?
Yeah, digital recording isn't as easy. A computer might give me a weird error message and I won't know what to do. The tape machine doesn't do that.
Do you have a favorite among the albums you've recorded?
The M. Ward projects, because you never know what'll happen. It's a different challenge every day, and you can get way outside the box. I mean: 'On this, use your crappiest mic.' You don't get that request very often.
Mike Coykendall plays Mississippi Studios with Chris Robley and Chad Bault Friday, Nov. 17, at 10 pm. $7. 21+.