Interview: Adam Faucett on Salem Witch Trials, Fear of Fear, Judgment, and Singing Out Loud

Interviews

Americana Highways had a chance to talk with Arkansan musician Adam Faucett the other day as he was about to take off to Europe for at tour in Italy, Spain, and the French Mediterranean.  After we asked him to send us postcards, we settled in to chat a little about his recent album It Took the Shape of a Bird (Last Chance Records).

AH: Your new album is entitled It Took the Shape of a Bird, what is that title about?

AF: It’s a quote from one of the girls on trial during the Salem witch trials. Those girls were all making that up, and one of those girls said that Satan had come to her and it took the shape of a bird.

I’m really interested in history, especially the wackier points of it, and the Salem witch trials fall into that category. And the mood of the record is about this false habit we all seem to have, of something that I’d say is more than “crying wolf,” it’s “crying Satan.”

Actually I’ve never been great at naming songs or records; they always come after the thing is done and it’s hard to name it accurately. The same thing would happen with band names. In the past I’d have a band name, but then the drummer would leave, and it’d become a question of whether we are still the same band? So I ultimately just went with calling it Adam Faucett (laughs).

AH: The album sounds like grunge Americana.

AF: It definitely moves and shakes in that way.

AH: The song “Kingsnake” is so full of images, all about a difficult childhood. Is this biographical? Is it about someone in particular?

AF: I can’t disclose exactly who this is about, it’s about a family member but I don’t want to give it away. It’s somebody who was actually orphaned in the WWII era. I took some liberties of course, with the going out and seeing a kingsnake, but for the most part it’s completely true. She was treated horribly.

AH: How did you capture her story?

AF: Once you’ve seen an old lady cry a couple of times telling the same story it’s not hard to put yourself into those shoes and run with it.

AH: “Dust” is another one, there’s a fear of death. There are a lot of fears.

AF: The whole record is about fear. You could go from song to song. And yes a lot of it is about the fear of fear.

AH: You have these lines: “Lay your gun down and lean on me. Let your god go and lay it on me” and the song seems to identify a difference between real fear vs unnecessary fear. Do people sometimes make up or exaggerate their fears?

AF: Throughout the record, and throughout life, I’ve observed that there’s a scope of let’s say on a scale of 1-10 fear vs not real fear.  On “Dust” it describes the way you sometimes go through all the motions of fear and by the time you get to the last line, it’s like “who needs it?” On that fear scale, an 8 is probably functionally the worst, because by the time you get to 10, you’re at the bottom, and the fight’s over, and that’s actually a relief. When things get to their absolute worst, it’s kind of a relief. When you’re at that point of the 8, and you can still see the 7, and the 9, and things could get worse, and then things can get worse still.

“Dust” is a song of addiction and it’s got a duality too, like the “Mackey Bennet” song. If you’re going to try to help someone that’s very far gone one way, and then try to explain it to someone who is so far gone another way, you realize there are extremes of being messed up and wrong. For example, there are people who are too far into a religious judgmentalism who can’t understand trying to help someone who’s on the other end of the spectrum, lost and down & out. You’re stuck there in the middle, on that song.

AH: Would you say you have “rescuer” tendencies?

AF: The whole record has redemption themes, like “I’m here to take you home.” But it’s really more like “I wish I could help you.” But also, “maybe as I’m up on this high horse, I’m not actually available to help you because I’m sinking at the same rate. What do I know?”

AH: In “Rain” you write: “your fears of being alone have outgrown all your art.” Can you unpack that statement? There’s a lot to that.

AF: I see that a lot. Of all the themes of the record, that one is one of the more domestic ones and it’s a common situation I think a lot of people witness. Being an artist and growing up with artists, I’ve watched so many people when they get to a certain age become afraid, and it’s more than settling down, it’s like, taking it all back. Down here in the South, a lot of people want to make the deity proud. I’ve watched very worthwhile artistic minds give in to taking some “high” road. It happens all the time.

That song is really about fear of being alone. I don’t know what people are afraid of, but in life it does seem to be a path people take frequently. They give in to other people, it’s this idea that they can’t be alone forever, they can’t be artists forever; they’ll find someone else and play by their rules, they’ll give it up through them. It’s about giving up through marriage. That’s one of the few love songs on the record, and I’m asking “What happened to all those late nights, what happened to all those things we said we believed?”

AH: How do you perform these emotionally vulnerable songs in a room full of people who may be strangers?

AF: Ah it feels great; it’s very therapeutic. Your greatest hope is that people are listening closely enough on the first pass.

When I was a little kid and I heard Otis Redding screaming on the radio, and being the rambunctious little kid I was, I was so impressed to think that someone could get up and scream like that and not “get in trouble.” (laughs) That’s what I get out of it. I write it, and then I get to stand in front of people and scream this at them. As far as experiences you can have as a living human being, that’s one of the greatest feelings. It feels really good to tell the truth. And it feels even better to tell the truth by yourself loudly from onstage. That is a “you can’t touch me” moment.

AH: Your singing is very open and spacious and out loud out there. Did you always project your singing?

AF: I’m an extremist in life, if I get into something I want to really get into it. And I also grew up in a loud house. It was a henhouse so to speak, so I had to talk loud just to get another biscuit. (laughs) I also came up in the ‘90s, and everybody was screaming back then. For me the performance is for people who want to hear it, I want to feel like I’m putting something back into the world. And for me to get there, and do it right, I can’t just mumble the stuff. To get out on stage and really push your vocal chords in front of people, that’s powerful. It also allows a lot of chances for them to see me mess up, and that’s cool too.

AH: The days are getting darker, the holidays are coming, what are the holidays like for you?

AF: It’s funny you should ask. Because my family is so spread out now, we never do the holidays on the actual holiday.  So I never get to go! I haven’t been to a Faucett family Christmas in probably ten years. I’ll be in Europe this year; I’ll miss all that. Usually for Christmas it’s just me and my ol’ man, we look at each other, and say “hey, you wanna go riding around?” (laughs) By the time I get to town everything’s all been unwrapped, and it’ll be like “oh hey, I got something for you, hang on, let me look….” (laughs)

AH: Your album was on Last Chance Records, right?  

AF: Yes, and I’ll miss the Last Chance Records’ Holiday Hangout annual party at the Whitewater Tavern in Little Rock, too. That’s such a great event, people really all get along and it’s really special. There’s something very special about the Whitewater Tavern, it has something, I don’t know what it is. It’s funny because it’s so cool, there are even jealous people down here who say things like “they aren’t cool enough for the White Water.” (laughs)  That’s just people who haven’t hit their stride, because it’s really so awesome. And Last Chance is based here in Arkansas.  I’m one of the only Arkansans who travels who’s on that label.

AH: What’s on the horizon for you?

AF: I’ll be on the road all over the US again next year, and trying to go to Europe once a year. This most recent time I’ve been in Italy, Spain, south of Paris, it’s so pretty, I’m really excited.

Adam Faucett is still in Europe right now; but stay tuned by keeping an eye out here: http://www.adamfaucett.com/ and scoop up his album here:

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