The following text is a transcript from the Chris Pureka episode of the Hult Center Podcast, recorded on April 6, 2022.
Daniel Olbrych: You’re listening to the Hult Center podcast and with me today is Chris Pureka. Chris will be performing at the Hult Center on Friday, April 22, at 8 pm for our 10×10 series, where all tickets are just $10. And so welcome, Chris. Thanks for coming.
Chris Pureka: Thanks. Yeah.
Daniel Olbrych: And just this series, you know, is bringing artists that are fantastic to people that might not have heard you before. So if you could tell us a little bit, who you are, that would be great.
Chris Pureka: Sure. Yeah. I’m really excited. What a great idea for like a more affordable concert series. And that sounds great. I hope that people check it out. Yeah, my name is Chris Pureka. I’m a Portland-based singer-songwriter. I’ve been living in Portland for about nine years. But I’m originally from the East Coast. So kind of got my start out there in the folk scene, and then kind of moved out here. Yeah, that’s, that’s what I got.
Daniel Olbrych: Cool. I’m also from the East Coast.
Chris Pureka: Cool.
Daniel Olbrych: I grew up in Connecticut.
Chris Pureka: Me too.
Daniel Olbrych: Hey! Alright!
Chris Pureka: I’m so excited. There’s nothing exciting about Connecticut, I love the shared not excitement about a place.
Daniel Olbrych: When did you start writing songs and playing guitar?
Chris Pureka: Um, it’s not… I got my first guitar when I was eight. And I was actually this guitar that I was holding. It’s a little classical, kind of like kid sized guitar, but I still really love it. And, uhm, and I kind of wanted to be more of a rocker. And I was like, this classical thing isn’t, isn’t my jam. And so I didn’t, I kind of quit for a long time. And then I asked for like a steel string for my 16th birthday. And so that’s when I started playing for real. And I started writing songs right away, like in high school, and started playing open mics in college and everything so, Yeah. It’s been a while. Even like, it’s been like five years, you know, since I graduated from college, and…
Daniel Olbrych: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Same here.
Chris Pureka: I guess no one can see what we look like or anything, but I’m older. I’m a little older than that. But, you know.
Daniel Olbrych: Right on. That’s experience. That’s all that is. Do you remember the first song that you played on guitar?
Chris Pureka: Well, I have a good story. Yeah, I do, actually. So, sorry. I was thinking about back to like, when I was in third grade with, I’m gonna leave that behind. But the first song that I learned to play when I was 16, so I have another, another Connecticut native, a very close friend of mine. Her name is Merrill Garbus. And she is the band Tune-Yards. And we went to high school together. So some of your listeners might know her from her, her own music. She’s based in Oakland, actually, but…
Daniel Olbrych: Okay, and I just left Oakland. Yeah.
Chris Pureka: So, so she came over, I got my new guitar, and I was like, hey, we were both really into The Beatles. And I was like, there’s the song. It’s only two chords. I only know two chords. So this is the perfect song. And it was Yellow Submarine. Which is…
Daniel Olbrych: Perfect.
Chris Pureka: Admittedly not a great song. And, but we like, we rocked it. And because you know, you’re like I only know two chords. So start with this like really easier one so.
Daniel Olbrych: That, that eerily mirrors my experience, too. I, my first song was Rocky Raccoon.
Chris Pureka: Okay, great. Is it also two, three chords?
Daniel Olbrych: It’s probably maybe three or four and I had a Beatles book. It just kind of made everything easy. And it just shows you where to put your fingers. And that’s, yeah.
Chris Pureka: I’m actually working on a Beatles song right now because my friend John Craigie who’s another singer songwriter from Portland. He does every year he does this Beatles like acoustic night where he plays a whole Beatles album. And then he has people open that plays songs from other Beatles I was and he’s done the whole, their whole catalogue. I think he’s doing Let It Be this time. And so it’s and he is very charming and funny and tells all this fun Beatle stories, and it’s a really great show.
Daniel Olbrych: I actually just saw John. He was at the Hult in December.
Chris Pureka: Oh, excellent. So yeah, hopefully,
Daniel Olbrych: He was a stand up comedian / Folk artist.
Chris Pureka: Exactly, he’s got it all. So yeah, and he’s really good at modifying the Beatles tunes to like, work with his style. And just with the acoustic guitar and stuff, it’s a really good show.
Daniel Olbrych: Awesome. So your most recent release ‘The Longest Year,’ it like, pulls you in, in the first like, 30 seconds, the title track is beautiful. Your voice is like, it’s kind of mind bending. It’s simultaneously delicate, and powerful. And in general, it’s very hopeful. I think this is an album that everyone could use a little, you know, a little bit of that right now. Can you tell me about these songs and this production? And ending and ending with What a Wonderful World? You know, it’s like, you definitely had an idea. And I feel like you got it.
Chris Pureka: Yeah, thanks so much. I really that’s like really lovely feedback. And just because of all the you know, being inside things.
Daniel Olbrych: Yeah, the stuff that happened.
Chris Pureka: I haven’t really gotten to tour it yet much and stuff. So it’s really nice to talk about it. And, um, I think yeah, so I started, I started recording an EP that I thought was going to be a different project every, every so often, in between my full length albums, I release these kind of like amalgam hodge-podgey like EP’s that are like loose ends, they’re like, covers and live tracks and songs that I don’t think have a home on a on a full length. And so I started working on that and I started recording some of the songs that I had been writing and I realized that like I realized partway through the project that it was it was kind of a different thing. And that the songs were actually taking a different direction and and they were actually more way more cohesive than I had thought and as I started to like kind of piece it together. I realized that it was it was intended to be more of a pandemic EP, a different thing. And all the songs do have kind of a hopeful heir to them, which I think, like for me, for me like for the last you know year or two like, I think that’s what I’ve been leaning into more. I think it’s it’s been harder to listen to really sad stuff and when things feel like kind of bleak kind of like a global way. I think like it’s like a little different if you’re just like personally feeling bleak and then you can kind of like you know, listen to your like Ryan Adams and you know, get really or whatever Patty Griffin I get really sad or something. But I feel like I think that I like really wanted to project something more hopeful and yeah, so that all took a different shape and I really kind of restructured it, rebranded it and then called it ‘The Longest Year’ and and there is more of a theme to it for sure.
Daniel Olbrych: Yeah, was there a particular song that when you were done recording it you were like oh, yeah, like that’s that’s the one?
Chris Pureka: My favorite track on the album is is the second track which is called ‘Sky Spinning.’ It was the single and I feel like it’s it’s… I don’t even know why it’s my favorite. I mean, I think it’s it’s a little more conversational and it’s got, I liked I really liked how the production turned out on it. I think it could have been a little bit different or a little more boring, but I really am happy with how it came together. I played lap steel on it. So I wrote those parts and I and then I had an upright bass guy come in and do some bowed bass, which ended up kind of creating more of like almost cello vibes on it and I was just really happy with how it came out and you just never really know going into a thing.
Daniel Olbrych: Of course.
Chris Pureka: So that’s probably my favorite. But I mean, close second would probably be the title track, which I, I feel like also it turned out. Like, kind of better than expected. I actually had to re-record that song, because it started out, I tried it in like a really different way, like an electric vibe and like a more upbeat thing. And I wasn’t happy with how it was sounding. And so I kind of I totally scrapped it and started from scratch and, and built it back up. And I’m really happy with that. I’m glad it kind of proves, like how it’s worth it sometimes to kind of just start over, you know, something’s not working. Yeah.
Daniel Olbrych: For sure. Yeah. And you know, that was that leads into my next question. It’s not just acoustic this record, it’s like, I noticed a lot of like, it could be a casino guitar, or like a semi-hollow tele or something like that, like you got non-traditional, like, when I think of folk music, non-traditional instruments like being played here, too, which is cool.
Chris Pureka: Well, um, so I play most of the lead parts on the album. Like, I played a lot of lap steel and telly. There’s one, there’s one other part that someone else played, but in general, I play all the electric guitars. So that obviously doesn’t work, live, because, but but I have an amazing electric guitar player that I tour with regularly and most of the time, but they live in LA. So they’re not going to be at this night at this next show, unfortunately. But they do play a lot of shows with me. And I do try to bring those elements in as much as is possible and affordable for a live show. Because I do think it adds a lot. And so but I mean, it’s nice to to do them stripped down, like it’s a little bit of a different thing. And I think I kind of lean into the acoustic guitar a little bit differently when there’s not the other parts. And I mean, I will be playing electric guitar, the show just rhythm guitar, just, you know, be playing both acoustic and electric on different songs. Yeah.
Daniel Olbrych: Awesome. You know, we talked about John Craigie and you know, this week, we have Rodney Crowell at the whole center. And then we have Mary Chapin Carpenter coming in June. So what is it about folk music that it endures? It stands the test of time, it’s it’s still going and it’s still popular and new artists are recording it and old artists are still recording it. So give me some insight into that.
Chris Pureka: I wish I had all the insight for you. I think. I mean, I do think that it’s like it comes in and out of favor for sure. I think it you know, it’s had its moments of being of its like heyday and like popularity. I wouldn’t really call right now one of those times, really, but I do think that there’s there’s room right now for just so many so many genres to thrive. Like there’s not really like one thing emerging is like the big thing. So I think there’s a lot of parallel genres that are happening and I have I’ve always just been drawn to acoustic music. I think I I really, like I’m drawn to the focus on lyrics that comes from that and singer songwriters that are kind of more poetic, and bring that like poignancy to like, their lyricism. And so I think I think that’s a lot harder. If you’re like, if you’re trying to do that kind of, those kinds of lyrics over a louder sound, you know?
Daniel Olbrych: Sure. Yeah. Less, less sonic noise to get in the way. Kind of.
Chris Pureka: People do it though. I mean, there are, you know, geniuses that are, you know, fronting bands like in that way. So, but I think, yeah, I grew up, you know, I was really drawn to like Simon and Garfunkel and Cat Stevens and stuff. And that was kind of just like, I was like, this is it. This is the spot. So yeah. I’m just I’m really excited to play at your space. And it’s been a minute since have played in Eugene. It’s been a minute since I play lots of places. So excited to be out there. And yeah, I hope that people check it out.
Daniel Olbrych: Yeah, we’re excited to have you. So Chris will be at the Hult Center on Friday, April 22 at 8 pm for the 10×10 series. Tickets are just $10 and we can’t wait to see you.