Jeffrey Focault on art as craft

When we create our stories each week, one of the most agonizing decisions is what to call people. How do you distill a life—in the case of our storytellers, an otherworldly life—into the three or four words of a title scroll?

In the tradition of American originals like Guy Clark and John Prine, Jeffrey Foucault is a songwriter’s songwriter. That’s not to say he considers himself a poet, as he tells us here.

If you’ve heard his latest remarkable album, last year’s Salt as Wolves, you may just disagree. But however he thinks of himself and his art, there’s no denying that Foucault is a craftsman of the highest order.

We talked about his songwriting beginnings, and how he turned his personal passion into a writer’s life. And he set us straight on the idea of divine inspiration, which at least to his work, is way less important than the hard work that goes into truly crafting a song.

You get a glimpse here of his sensibility as an artist who is developing into the full breadth of his powers, an artist who is continuing to evolve into one of his generation’s most respected practitioners of the deeply American tradition of blues-based music.

Incidentally, in recent articles and on his website, he’s created some beautiful long-form writing as well, a mode that lets him stretch out and put on display his gift of humor and emotion so evident in his stage shows.

If you haven’t heard his records, they’re all pretty great, but Salt as Wolves in particular will stay in your head for weeks.

And if you haven’t seen him live, you might want to find an intimate room he’s playing soon, so you can have your own story of “I saw him when . . .”

Check out Foucault’s writing and music and touring schedule at


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