Interview: John Statz weaves life and road tales into Tulsa

John Statz

John Statz calls Denver, Colorado home these days, but it wasn’t long ago he was part of the emerging Madison singer-songwriter community. He still collaborates with Jeffrey Foucault who just produced John's latest album Tulsa

“”John writes songs you can’t shake,”” says Foucault. “”They follow you around all day and run through your head at 3 a.m. Open hearted, horizon-line songs.”” 

A beautiful blend of edgy americana and thought provoking folk reminiscent of The Jayhawks and Whiskeytown, Tulsa expands on John's lyrical vision with a full backing band. And what a band it is; Billy Conway (Morphine) on drums, Mark Spencer (Son Volt) on electric guitars and pedal steel, Jeremy Moses Curtis (Booker T) on bass with Jeffrey Foucault on guitars and vocals. The album was recorded in southern Vermont at Verdant Studios.

We caught up with John on the road for a few questions on Tulsa, Denver, Madison and abandoned bicycle factories among other things.

How do you compare Denver with Madison?

It’s a bigger city which I like. Madison is smaller, but I feel like there is a tighter community there. That could be because I know it better. I’m still learning the ropes in Denver. There’s also legal marijuana in Denver (laughs).

Anything you miss about Madison?

I love Madison. I have a lot of good friends there. I miss going to all these places in town. I always have to go to the Crystal Corner Bar when I visit. That’s why the show is at the Crystal because I always end up there after any show I do. Why not just spend all night at the Crystal Corner this time? I miss the Weary Traveler and the bike paths. Madison is much more bicycle friendly than Denver. I used to get around almost exclusively by bike when I lived in Madison.

How do you approach songwriting?

I really don’t have specific way of writing songs. Most of my songs are pretty topical. Old Pro is about a picture of a retired football player. Tannenberg is about a Russian World War 1 battle. Those kinds of things help me a lot because if I pick a topic like that I can do the research to help me fill in the song with facts.

I’ve done a lot of work on my lyrics because I never felt that was a strong suit of mine. I did a lot writing for this album sitting in diners and on planes working on lyrics first and then adding music later. For this album, I had to write with a full band in mind.

What is one of the strangest places you’ve done a gig?

I did some touring in Eastern Europe back in 2009/2010. I played a couple of times in this abandoned bicycle factory in Ljubljana which is in Slovenia. It was pretty weird. It was a factory that had been taken over by squatters. The government kept threatening to shut it down and to my knowledge they haven’t succeeded yet. These guys just had a little art community in there with a generator and a stage, and they ran shows.

(Editor's note: Catch John Statz at the Crystal Corner Bar in Madison on Saturday, March 14)

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