Straight To The Point: A Conversation With Singer/Songwriter Jack Klatt

Minneapolis-based Jack Klatt’s new album, “It Ain’t The Same,” sees the Twin Cities troubadour cross his early punk influence with traces of Americana for a finished product that is as good as it is impossible to pigeonhole into one musical category. Klatt made an appearance in Des Moines this past July, but thankfully Iowans can get another taste of his unique musical recipe this Tuesday night when Klatt will fill the opening slot for Pokey LaFarge at CSPS Hall in Cedar Rapids.

Klatt took a few minutes to answer some questions for ListenIowa prior to the show, talking about the new record, what busking taught him, and how $30 and a “Rocky” DVD saved his neck one day.

Congratulations on the new record. What “ain’t the same,” exactly?
A lot really.  All of my previous recordings have been done completely live, either solo, or with a band that I had been regularly touring with.  For “It Ain’t the Same” I put together a band that had never existed before we got into the studio together.  In retrospect it was a bit of a gamble. We eased into the arrangements and allowed time to experiment with different grooves. It’s not like we went crazy producing the sound, but we had enough resources to add some frosting on top of the cake.

The album has some great tracks and is straight to the point, so much so that only three of the 11 tracks exceed three minutes in length.
I suppose that’s just how this batch came out.  I have written my fair share of ballads, one of which is on this new record.

You used a solid group of musicians on the album, including Casey McDonough, Alex Hall and John James Tourville.
I met John James in New Orleans going fishing with some mutual friends. Coincidentally he is also from the Twin Cities. I always felt a musical kinship with him, and we stayed in touch over the years. He can play anything with strings, and he’s a great songwriter. He wrote the title track to the record. Casey McDonough is a bassist from Chicago. I met him when he was in St. Paul playing with the Flat Five at the Turf Club. He can sing, write songs, play piano, guitar, you name it. He is an all around amazing musician. Alex Hall is one of the best drummers I know, and a genius engineer. I really like the sounds he gets out of his studio and he was an absolute pleasure to work with. We had a real good vibe going in the studio between the four of us. It was like the four directions. The sessions were easy and fun, which is what you hope for. I really think the feeling gets captured in a room when you make a record, and we had a good thing going over those two weeks.

Will they tour with you? If not, who will?
John James will be coming out with me for the whole east coast run. Casey will be joining us for just a couple shows at the tail end of the tour, Chicago and Milwaukee.  My Minneapolis drummer, Lars-Erik Larson, will be playing drums, and Chris Bierden (of Polica) will be playing bass for the majority of shows. This will be my very first headlining tour with a band, and I can’t wait to get on the road and promote this record.

Speaking of which, right out of the gates, “I’ll Never Let You Down” and “Looking For Love” are different stylistically from what follows. Then the last song, “Love Me Lonely,” bookends it. You a man of diverse musical tastes.
I’ve never understood genre. As far as I can tell it’s used to categorize things on a department store shelf. When you’re in the business of making sounds, anything is on the table. It either feels good or it doesn’t.

“Highway Lines,” “Prove My Love,” and “Tinted In Blue” are pure honky tonk. “Prove My Love” would make Buddy Holly proud. Those songs could be about going to jail, but it doesn’t matter — they swing.
I’m not too sure where these songs popped up from.  I was listening to a fair amount of Buddy Holly and Waylon Jennings at the time I wrote them, so I’m sure they’re hiding in there somewhere.

How have you been accepted in the context of the Twin Cities music scene?
The Twin Cities actually does have a pretty extensive community of alt-country/folk/Americana or whatever you want to call it. There is also an amazing jazz scene up here and a great rock n’ roll scene, too. It’s all music, and these players go back and fourth between all sorts of different genres; it’s very inspiring. Overall the scene has been very supportive of what I’m up to, and I’m proud to be from here.

You’ve done some busking on your musical path to where you are now. What did busking teach you?
These last couple of years on the road I’ve been doing a lot of opening slots for bigger bands like the Cactus Blossoms, Pokey LaFarge, or Parker Milsap. The fun thing about being an opener is that no one really expects you, so you have a chance to take someone off guard, surprise them. This is the essence of street performance, and I’d like to think some of that experience came in handy on those runs.

You’re a troubadour, so I’m sure you’ve got some good stories of  just you, your Martin and whatever fate had in store.
I was doing a little tour out to New York City in my Toyota truck about seven years ago. I had made up the back of the truck so I could sleep in it comfortably, you know, save some money on hotel rooms. So on the way home I stopped in Toledo, Ohio for a show, got done playing and decided I would stay in the parking lot. It was summer time, so I found a shady spot, propped open the back hatch with a box of poker chips, put my cash under my pillow and fell asleep with my guitar by my side. I woke up as the sun hit my truck. It was getting hot, and I realized my back hatch was closed, and those poker chips were scattered all over the parking lot. Then I realized that my guitar was gone. After a brief period of losing my proverbial shit, I decided I would not leave town until I found the thing. It’s a custom-made Fraulini guitar, there’s nothing else like it, so it should be pretty easy to find I thought. Now, will is a powerful thing, and I was absolutely determined to find my guitar. I called the police, alerted the venue and anyone I knew in town, walked around and talked to all the street people. Later that afternoon I got a call from a record store that was about three blocks away from where I was parked that morning. They had my guitar. The clerk knew it was unusual the moment he looked at it and promptly bought it from this guy for $30 and a “Rocky” DVD.  The only thing that was missing from the case was my lucky two dollar bill. I kissed the clerk on the cheek, gave him his$30, and even got on the road to play my show that night.