Jon Auer: The Musoscribe Interview, Pt. 3 of 5

Continued from Part Two

In Part Three of my conversation with Jon Auer, we discuss the appeal of house concerts like the one he did in Asheville. – bk

BILL KOPP: When I first heard The Posies’ Failure, I loved it. Still love it. But what never struck me until yesterday was an influence that I had never thought of before: Simon and Garfunkel.

JON AUER: Well, sure. One song I ended up playing from that last night, “Impromptu,” there’s kind of a bounce in it that would remind someone superficially of something like “Feelin’ Groovy.” It’s a juxtaposition of what appears to be happy melody on the outside, but then if you dig into the lyrical content, it’s like a therapy session, in a way. And that’s a very potent combination to me. It’s a Trojan horse kind of vibe where you’re using the hooks and the melodies, but you’re getting a deeper message in there.

As a recovering goth (as I like to call myself), there was a period of my life I went through a lot of phases. If you saw the hair, if you saw the metal me, you would probably laugh your ass off. But that’s where I learned how to play guitar, a lot of it. But I also got really into bands like The Smiths when they came out. Take “This Charming Man.” If you listen to the music, you think it’s the happiest thing in the world. Until you listen to the lyrics!

Like “Girlfriend in a Coma.” They’re all the same kind of thing.

It’s just bouncy pop, which I think is brilliant. Again, the Trojan horse is the way I would describe it. It’s like you’re using something that’s a little easier to digest to get some of the more bitter things on your plate to eat.

I imagine that one thing you experience doing a house concert that you wouldn’t have got when you’re on the big stage, is the different vibe. What does it feel like when you look out and you see people 8-10 feet away and they’re crying when you’re singing the lyrics? Because it happened last night.

I thought I saw some of that going on. That’s what I love about that level of performance. It’s not just what you do, but it’s where you do it and who you do it with. There’s something about that situation of playing in homes that’s already intimate, because you’re being brought into someone’s place. And you’re able to have these moments that are “breaking the fourth wall.” And that’s the thing that feeds me the most personally as far as performing. True intimacy is such a thing in life that is in short supply. And the most intimate moments as a performer are when you can really see people’s faces. You’re really on all on stage together in a way, in a living room.

There was a moment that happened last night that I didn’t plan on. I thought it would just be silly to ask someone about their astrological sign for a second, and then it really turned into “You’re in Asheville, my friend.” and you know what? It was perfect. I mean, it’s a perfect place to do it.

Might not work in Cleveland.

No, you’re right. Maybe it wouldn’t play out in Poughkeepsie or something like that. But I thought, “That’s pretty cool. You can’t do that with 5000.” You could, but it would take a lot longer, and the union people would be like, “Can we get the fuck out of here, please?” Not to go off on a tangent too much, but I’ve had a good level of success and I’ve had good years, leaner years, whatever. And I played some big stages. I played some big things. I played small things. But there’s something about the smaller situations. I mean, it’s great to hear a lot of people applauding for you; that’s something amazing. But it’s not the same as getting that fix of intimacy. I guess “fix” is the wrong word, but it feels like you really are connecting on a deep level.

I don’t want to sound like a self help meme, but there’s great power in sharing these things that you think maybe you don’t want to share. And I don’t see how you could do that at a rock concert with 10,000 people. It’s super gratifying to do it, to play to a limited number of people.

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