Jeremy Squires is easily one of folk and Americana music’s most prolific singer-songwriters, having now released ten overall albums since 2006. Recently we spoke by phone about his songwriting process, his musical influences, and his new album Many Moons. Our conversation, edited for clarity and length is below.
Americana Highways: How would you describe your songwriting process?
Jeremy Squires: I would say it varies. For the most part I usually just pick up my guitar and start messing around with it. Or sometimes I’ll just start humming and come up with some vocal patterns or start mumbling some words that don’t even make sense and somewhere out of that it’ll spark a verse and then I’ll go from there and start writing the lyrics out along with my vocal patterns. Because I write poetry sometimes after writing a poem I’ll look at it and decide if it could be a song by singing the words along with my guitar or piano. Like I said, it just varies. I don’t ever just sit down with a concept or theme in mind. I just write whatever I am feeling at the time.
AH: One of the reasons I wanted to ask you that question is how prolific you are and that it always fascinates me to hear the similarities between the processes of different songwriters. The wonderful roots musician and artist Ruthie Foster does a lot of similar things to what you just described. She also says that one of the big things she also does is sing into her phone while on the way to picking up her daughter from school when she gets a song idea.
JS: Yeah I can totally relate to that as well. I get ideas like that all the time too.
AH: Who do you consider to have been your biggest musical influences growing up?
JS: I was eleven when I started playing the guitar and the music that really made me want to learn how to play and sing and stuff were the grunge bands. I was really into Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Soundgarden just because they were so big at the time. Another band that I was really into back then was Sunny Day Real Estate and their album Diary – that just floored me and inspired me. I would also say The Cure and two artists that my mom loved – Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks. I would also say Bruce Springsteen, The Replacements, Paul Westerberg, and Husker Du, the Minnesota punk band.
AH: We have a common love for that band. I am an old punk rocker myself and I was fortunate enough to have seen them live in 1986 when their album New Day Rising had just come out.
JS: That’s awesome. I always loved them and their lead singer Bob Mould’s stuff with his band Sugar after Husker Du broke up.
AH: Many Moons is going to be your tenth full-length album since 2006. Do you ever have a time frame goal in mind as far as when you release your albums or do they just come out naturally after you create a batch of songs?
JS: They just come out naturally. Usually, when I start writing songs, I know when they are going to wind up being an album, which usually takes a couple of months, and then I’ll go and record demos and then the real thing. After that sometimes I will reach out to my friends and fellow musicians who live all over the place and we’ll send tracks back and forth. They’ll go into the studio and cut something and send it to me and vice versa and I’ll mix it or have someone else mix it. I am already almost finished with another album that I have recorded during this pandemic. I am just waiting on some violin tracks and drum tracks to come back from a couple of my friends that I was just talking about. That album will be completely finished soon.
AH: Wow, so do you have an anticipated release date for that one?
JS: No, but I already have a name for it and I’ve already sequenced the tracks.
AH: Given your influences that we talked about, do you feel there is a special connection between folk music and alternative music/ punk?
JS: Yes, I do feel there is a special connection between the two especially when it comes to the storytelling aspects of both of them. Even musically speaking you can rock out and get a very articulate point across in either genre.
AH: In one of your quotes about this new album, you said you wanted to expand beyond the “folk/ Americana /singer-songwriter bonds. I wanted to write something special, emotional, and dreamy. Many Moons is what came of that.” So, did the songs determine that, or did you just let the songs develop naturally?
JS: They totally just developed naturally. It’s kind of hard to describe but I knew when they were going the way of the dreamy route that they were going to sound similar. I veered away from the traditional folk sound with them and just let them develop on their own.
AH: How easy do you think it is as a singer-songwriter to let yourself become constrained by those bonds you just referred to, especially if you have built a fan base with that sound? Or alternatively, does that not come into play at all?
JS: It’s definitely a consideration because you never want to purposely alienate your fans. With this album, it was kind of like I may lose some fans, but I know I may gain some new ones too. No two albums that I have ever done have ever been the same. If you go back and listen to a lot of my older albums, they really are pretty different from each other and my next album is going to be different from my latest one. It actually has some traditional folk songs on it and some really rocking songs on it as well. I create my albums on just whatever feels right and I just hope that when people listen to Many Moons that they just get that and like it, because I think it can be kind of catchy too.
AH: One of the distinctive things about Many Moons is that it was totally self-recorded by you in that you did all of the instrumentation, except for a couple of pedal steel guitar parts from your friend Whit Wright. Did you approach this project with that in mind or did that just actually happen on its own as well?
JS: With this album, I actually felt like I wanted to do everything on my own because of the way I had done my last few albums.
AH: How did you arrive at the title Many Moons? Did it come about as you were doing the album and what do you think its significance is to this collection of songs?
JS: The title of it just came to me as I was writing the songs on the album. It refers to all of the changes in my life that I have gone through and to all of the changes that we all go through. The song “Many Moons” was actually a last-minute addition to the album and once it was there I just felt like I should call the album by that name too.
AH: Another writer once said of you “He brings something to his sound and that something is something that reminds you of a long journey home.” Would you agree in this assessment of your music?
JS: Yes, I would totally agree with that assessment.
AH: In your bio you mention that you also write poetry. Are there any plans in the works to publish the poetry/ photography book that is referred to in your bio?
JS: Yes, I am actually working on it to be released in the not too distant future.
AH: What do you want your listeners to walk with after listening to Many Moons?
JS: I would like for them to be able to feel hopeful and to just know that they are not alone with their feelings or struggles. Whether it be about losing somebody, grieving, or depression this new album has some dark stuff on it but I tried to convey it in a way where you can see the hope in it. I wanted this album to be hopeful especially with the way things are right now. That’s about it.
Jeremy Squires’ latest album Many Moons is now available on his website .