After a period of introspection that led to his 13th studio album, “The Horizon Just Laughed,” the veteran singer-songwriter, who's called the Seattle area home for 33 years, is moving to Southern California.
Damien Jurado is saying goodbye to Seattle. After calling the area home for 33 years, the veteran singer-songwriter is moving to Southern California, but not before one final show at St. Mark’s Cathedral on June 2.
“If you asked me a year ago if I would ever be leaving Washington for anywhere, I would have said, ‘No way,’ ” Jurado said, noting how Seattle’s exponential growth has left him and many others feeling pushed out. “I’ve always been a proud Washingtonian. I’ve always felt when I leave the walls of the Cascades, I go out as a representative of where I’m from. That’s how I saw myself.”
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The life-altering decision comes on the heels of a dark period of time in 2016 for Jurado, when he unplugged from the world by ditching his cellphone and installing a landline, and lost himself in reruns of old shows he grew up watching, like “Alice.” That period of introspection led to his 13th studio album, the recently released “The Horizon Just Laughed,” a striking sonic departure from his “Maraqopa” trilogy.
Jurado had worked with producer Richard Swift on four albums, including the “Maraqopa” trilogy, but ended up self-producing “The Horizon Just Laughed” at Sonikwire Studios in Irvine, Calif., when it became clear Swift’s schedule did not align with the urgency Jurado was feeling.
“The next thing I knew, I was on a plane heading to Southern California,” Jurado said, explaining that he figured since he had produced other albums, he could do his own as well. “The actual experience was fairly easy. Self-producing was pretty simple because I knew what I wanted ahead of time. Not just the instrumentation, but the takes. My initial recording, the vocals and guitar, took under an hour.”
The result of that three-day fever dream in the studio is Jurado’s finest album and a damning assessment of modern life through the lens of some of pop culture’s forgotten icons. Whether it’s 1950s pop composer Percy Faith or “Alice” co-star Marvin Kaplan, the ghosts from Jurado’s past permeate the record.
“I was sort of reverting back to television of an era I am familiar with,” Jurado said. “During this time I was writing a lot of material, and I found myself having these conversations between me and a lot the characters in the shows I was watching. It was a very strange time for me. I had gotten offline, didn’t use the internet. It was an interesting time, I pretty much missed the election.”
Swelling, dreamy strings and brass, a nod to Faith and Ray Conniff, give the album a classic sound that evokes a bygone era Jurado both seems to long for and is also painfully aware of its passing. On “Over Rainbows and Rainier,” the strings build until Jurado is ready to unleash one of his more devastating lines: “I forgot I was human as I laid up my emotions/and I knocked them like dishes to the floor.”
As one small way to combat the excesses and artificial immediacy of modern life, Jurado made the bold decision to not release “The Horizon Just Laughed” on digital streaming services until two months after the album’s physical release date, meaning that fans will have to wait until July to hear it on Spotify. Jurado said he’s already heard from some fans that are upset, but he wants to encourage deeper engagement with his music.
“I still believe in the physical product,” Jurado said. “I want to be very clear on something here: I am not against streaming at all, it could be a television show, it could be Spotify. What I am against is it being your only means of entertainment. It’s like calling internet pornography ‘sex.’ It’s two different things. One is the illusion and simulation and the other is the actual physical, skin-on-skin experience.”
Playing St. Mark’s, which Jurado calls “a beacon on a hill,” might be the perfect way for an artist who has always sought that intimate, authentic experience with fans to say farewell.
“St. Mark’s is a beautiful experience,” Jurado said. “People are going there to listen. They’re not going there to buy beer and talk over your show. And for me, I play listening music. I play music that requires attention. I’m not putting myself up there with opera or classical, but let’s face it, you don’t go to an opera and talk through their show. But that’s where we’re at right now with music.”
Damien Jurado “Over Rainbows” Tour, with Naomi Wachira. 8 p.m. Saturday, June 2; St. Mark’s Cathedral, 1245 10th Ave. E., Seattle; $15-$28; 206-323-0300, eventbrite.com. Sold out; waiting list online and at the door.