Folk is not dead.
It’s thriving in its modernized mainstream form with the high number of jangly pop-folk bands selling a road trip’s worth of catchy tunes that seem to take on the persona of folk without actually sinking in their teeth. Jake Klar, on the other hand, brings us right back to the heart, the journey, and the exploration that defined American Folk music from the start – all while adding his own signature.
Rhythm and groove, grit and honesty, Klar’s music is part of the new Americana synergy that infuses rock and pop sensibilities with folk sincerity. His music seeks to turn a simple tune into something that connects us to both the stories and emotions that make our experiences worth remembering.
Who are you, where you from?
I’m based out of Northampton, Mass. Jake Klar.
How long have you been there?
Probably about five years now. I moved up for school originally, still doing music and everything, but I just really liked that area. Now I work at a letterpress there. It’s just a good community.
You’re a printer?
Yeah, I do my own prints and then I’m a printing assistant. I try as much as I can to do my own stuff. I did my own CD covers and merch, and I try to help out other bands as well.
What’s the side gig, the music or the printing?
Oh, definitely the printing.
Well, you know. I’m sure all the bands you talk to, in the end, the music business is really hard right now. It’s hard for me especially as a new artist. People don’t know who I am, and I don’t necessarily know who I am, you know? I’m still trying to figure that out. Most musicians are working musicians.
How did you get into playing music?
My dad grew up playing in rock bands in the 70s. He was a drummer, so we always had a drum kit in our basement. When my brother started playing guitar I would sort of follow along. I never really got serious about it until I was about 16. I just got really into old blues and folk music, which led to songwriting. Classic, I read a Bob Dylan biography, and then Woodie Guthrie and all these other songwriters came about. I would learn their songs and then immediately dissect their recordings. I just learned how to steal, and re-do what they were doing. As soon as that kicked in I started to do it full time. You couldn’t get me out of my room. I’d be in there reading or listening to records all the time.
At what point did you start writing your own material?
Pretty much immediately, around 16, I started writing songs. I have a bunch of old notebooks and recordings. I would never play any of them now. I spent a lot of time writing really shitty songs.
How did you transition from your bedroom to the recording studio or the stage?
I remember exactly where I played first, at an open mic night with an older musician running it. Afterwards he told me I could fill in at his gigs in between his sets. So I started playing once or twice a week, at pizza joint type places. There was this little Italian place in Danbury, CT and he would play for an hour and a half and then go to eat dinner so I’d play a bit, and then he’d play another set, and then I’d play for a break. And I’d get maybe fifty bucks and a pizza. I did that for a while, and slowly started to meet more people. I started to open for some bands at the Town Crier Cafe in New York. I got to open for some bigger national acts, and that really helped me.
Last year you released your third EP, correct?
Yeah, that was with the guys from Parsonsfield. Their main guy, Chris produced it, or we sort of co-produced it. We recorded it out in Parsonsfield, Maine. We rented out an old barn studio that had been re-done so you could play in any room. I sang in a little attic hallway. The drums were in the big attic space. Someone was playing bass in the kitchen. It was cool.
A bunch of different plans had fallen through for that project, and I was looking for a new studio. I remembered those guys had recorded at that studio, so I asked them about it and they were so on board.
How long have you been playing live?
I started doing it full time around 18. I think in my 19th year I was playing all over the place, two to three shows every week all around the northeast, from New York City to Maine. I’ve been trying to get pickier about the good shows to take. The type of music that I play, it ends up being like wine bars a lot. I’d prefer a venue, obviously playing a bigger club, but I really want to do this thing in black box theatres with a whole projection installation part of it, so it becomes a full viewer experience. A more multi-dimensional experience, rather than just a band or a singer that you watch. Someday.
If you had to speak to your influences, what would you say?
It’s hard to say. A lot of it comes from thinking all the time. It’s so situational. It doesn’t have to be a song. I read all the time. It could just be from hanging out with people. I love people watching, just sitting on a bench somewhere and watching everything happen. Ideas just pop into your head doing that.
You a big sports guy, then?
Uh, well, if you call skateboarding a sport. In school I was in town leagues and stuff, but I started skateboarding when I was 8 or 9, and everything else stopped. That’s when I started doing visual art and music.
You still skate?
Yeah, actually right after this I’m going to go skate.
You say you do other forms of art, too?
I play a lot of pool. I do a lot of drawing, printing, and then painting. I do a lot of illustrations. I write poetry. A lot of different things.
How does that play into your songwriting?
I’ve been thinking about that a lot. Let’s take painting, for example. Doing oil painting, you just keep adding and adding, and you keep messing up. You just build up enough to fix these mistakes and then you end up with a finished product. But it’s about constantly making mistakes, and then figuring out how you can make them work. I think that has a lot to do with live recording and performing. If you make a mistake you just have to run with it, and own that mistake and fix it on the spot. People will respect that. That’s the humanizing factor, is the mistake
What do you find yourself gravitating towards in your subject matter, and the stories you tell?
For better or for worse, I write a lot of songs about running away from something, and that question, why are you running away from it? I guess a lot of the songs in a general sense are trying to make sense of the past. I don’t write autobiographical songs. They’re always characters. I’m taking from my own experience and my own emotional responses in certain situations, or a fragment of a story I heard from someone else. The goal is to tap into those human emotions that we all feel.
So what’s in the future?
I’m working on writing a full-length record. Two songs are already being recorded, and I’m still working on another 12. So I’ll work on that and I want to do a short tour in the next year. I’m just keeping on doing what I’m doing.