What are you to think when you’ve built your career around writing songs of quiet desperation to the lone folk strum of an acoustic guitar, but the crowds refuse to shut up and listen?
Damien Jurado – set to play Motorco Music Hall Friday – says the audiences that show up for him these days are much better than those he faced when he was starting out in mid-90s era Seattle, Wash. – but he acknowledges that even his fans can possess bad manners.
Still, if you think it stinks to pay $15 to watch your favorite performer try to sing over folks talking, try being the one onstage. Jurado has to mentally prepare himself before shows.
“It’s not that dealing with disrespectful audience members is easy,” Jurado says, “it’s just that for me it comes down to attitudes. If you are playing to a room full of chatty people, and there are five people in the audience who you can tell are listening to you intently, you have to focus on those five people and just play for them. . . . It’s a matter of perspective.”
The songwriter – touring behind his album “Visions of Us on the Land” – has found that by making his shows open to all, with no restrictions designed to fill the rooms with drinkers, the chatter lessens.
“I don’t face it that much anymore because I try not to play venues with bars in them anymore, but it’s getting harder and harder to find those types of settings to play in,” he says. “Just the other day I was saying that I should just start playing all-ages shows all of the time. . . . I find that the kids that show up to my concerts tend to be the most focused and respectful in the audience.”
His show at Motorco Friday is an all-ages affair, and Jurado hopes that he can inspire some kids in the audience the same way musicians he found during his youth inspired him.
Listening to Glen Campbell and Simon & Garfunkel as a teenager helped his songwriting, but it was a performance by Kurt Cobain that clarified for Jurado – both charismatically and sonically – what he could accomplish with just an acoustic guitar and powerful lyrics.
“I remember not long after he died, MTV aired the ‘Nirvana Unplugged’ episode on TV, and I remember thinking how cool it was that he was taking (grunge rock) and playing it acoustically,” Jurado explains.
“That performance was just so influential for me, because at that point I was just over loud music. . . . That’s the direction that I was interested in going in, and there really wasn’t anyone in general doing that, especially on the indie rock scene. . . . It’s not that it was that revolutionary, it’s just that it was different. Singing by yourself, with only an acoustic guitar and no instrumentation behind you, was kind of a big thing back then.”
Who: Damien Jurado
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Where: Motorco Music Hall, 723 Rigsbee Ave., Durham