Photo: Nate Ryan / Courtesy of Big Hassle Media

Jack Klatt Reminds Us That We’re All “Looking For Love” (premiere + interview)

Long winters and the precarious social and political state of the world have helped Minneapolis troubadour Jack Klatt focus his energies on the one thing that always matters.

Minneapolis singer-songwriter Jack Klatt‘s latest, It Ain’t the Same, arrives 27 September via Yep Roc Records.

The new album, Klatt says, is a prolonged meditation on love, something that can be heard on the latest cut issued from the release, “Looking for Love”. With an economy that recalls the music of his fellow Minnesotan, Mason Jennings’ best work, there’s a plainspoken, folk quality to the tune that leaves the listener both heartbroken and hopeful.

Speaking about the tune, Klatt says, “We are all human beings that run on love and acceptance. An important thing to remember in the divisive time we are living in. Everybody’s looking for love. Use it as a compass. It’ll never steer you wrong.”

Klatt also shared some observations about the LP with PopMatters from his Twin Cities home.

When did you start writing the material for this new album?

I’m not entirely sure, songs are tricky things, and some of the seeds had been planted for them a long time ago. I started conceptualizing the collection of songs as an album about two years ago.

Did you have particular themes in mind as you began and were there things that came up the more you wrote?

I didn’t have any specific themes in mind, but threads did begin to reveal themselves as I got thicker into the process. A lot of big cultural changes were going on as we were recording this. “It Ain’t the Same” seemed like a fitting title, both in reference to the musical direction and the temperature of the cultural climate.

I know the recording process was a little different this time out, that you spent more time in the studio. What did you learn from recording the album that way?

I got extremely cozy in the studio with this record. As a band, we had never played these songs together before meeting up at Reliable Recorders in Chicago. It was a blank slate, and anything was possible, which can be a bit overwhelming if you let it. I came to understand that the vibe of the sessions is really what gets captured when you hit record. It’s amazing how you can hear a smile. The core of the band included Alex Hall (engineer and drums), Casey McDonough (bass), John James Tourville (pedal steel and guitars) and myself playing rhythm guitar. It was like the four directions, and I can’t overstate how important the group was in the making of this record.

You had some friends come along with you, including the Cactus Blossoms. I know you’ve done some shows with them and that seems like a dream pairing.

I’ve known Jack and Page for a long time, and they continue to be two of my best buddies. They were working on their latest record around the same time I was so we were naturally talking about the hurdles of the process as we were going through it. Once he gets going, Page is very talented with zoning in on the perfect hook. He did some backup harmonies in Minneapolis for “I’ll Never Let You Down” and “Highway Lines”. Jack Torrey and I cracked the code of the sequencing together. We worked on it until 4:00 am one night, trying all sorts of different combinations until it clicked.

This also marks your debut with Yep Roc. What led to your signing with them?

Jack Torrey of the Cactus Blossoms sent the record off to Glenn Dicker at Yep Roc after I had it mastered. He must’ve thought it was pretty good because Glenn flew out to Minneapolis in January to catch my band at the Turf Club! I don’t know if you’ve been to Minneapolis in January, but it’s famously cold, especially coming from Hillsborough, NC. Glenn and I hit it off, and the rest was a bunch of paperwork as they say. It’s been great working with everyone at Yep Roc, and I’m really happy to have found a home for this record.

There’s an economy to your writing. Was that something that was there from the start or did you go through a period where you found yourself needing to boil the tunes down a bit?

It’s funny how songs work. There have been times I’ve sat down in a fever and boom! I’ve got a new song, right there in front of me. “Prove My Love” and “Caught in the Middle” were both like that. It’s unbelievable when it happens, and it feels so good. Other times I’ve had to spend more time on something. “Ramblin’ Kind” is a good example of that. I had this melody that I just loved. It had a feeling, and it was very difficult to find the right poetry for it. I must’ve written 15 verses to the thing before I began zoning in on the right feel. That all being said, I’m not afraid to edit myself. I was working on lyrics up to the last possible moments in the studio. At that point it’s mostly phonetic, getting rid of a syllable here and there so the words can come across nice and clear.

You spent time as a busker, how did that inform the approach you take to live shows today?

Street performance is easily the purest form of entertainment I can think of. It’s an art of surprise and catching someone’s attention. I’ve been doing a lot of solo opening slots the past few months, and it’s very similar. The only difference being the fact that you have a microphone and an audience who is expecting to hear music. Busking taught me a lot about the space that you inhabit. You could be the best violinist in the world, but if you don’t know how to choose where to showcase that talent, you’ll never make a dime.

You’re originally from the Twin Cities. That’s always been a fertile place for music and continues to be to this day. What do you think the secret is? Long winters?

You might be onto something there. There’s a lot of space to dream in Minneapolis. The seasons are very intense and dramatic. You’ve never felt spring until you’ve lived through a Minnesota winter.

Is there something you hope listeners will take away from the new album?

This is a record about Love. Not just heartbreak or falling in love, but the big capital L LOVE. It’s an optimistic record in a trying time. We are at a teetering point culturally and politically, and this is my humble attempt to tip the scales in a positive, empathetic direction.

Tour dates (with Pokey LaFarge) 

Sep 20 — Vancouver, BC — The Wise Hall

Sep 21 — Seattle, WA — Ballard Homestead

Sep 22 — Portland, OR — The Doug Fir Lounge