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On Touring With Jack Johnson And Pushing His Comfort Zone

23 September 2015 | 6:52 pm | Chris Familton

"I’m always trying to think of different ways to screw with the program a bit.”

Musicians react in different ways to their own work, particularly with the benefit of hindsight after their songs have been critiqued or performed in concert. Almost a year to the day that Afie Jurvanen’s most recent album, 
Bahamas Is Afie
, was released he’s still engaged in the songs and finding new ways to explore and present them.

“I still really like playing the songs,” he explains. “I’ve never been obsessed with playing the album note for note when we play it live. I just get great musicians and allow the songs to breathe and expand in sections and allow room for ideas to happen. If I tried to be the exact same person every single night that would get a little boring for me. It’d probably be boring for the audience too. That’s how I try to stay interested, with little variations and trying to bend the songs a little bit. It’s not like I’m Bob Dylan or anything though, I think everyone will still recognise the songs. It’s just great to play shows and have the conversation back and forth with the other musicians.

“That’s what’s exciting for me about making records. You have to push yourself out of your comfort zone and try to make something special and see how you do. I’ll often tie one hand behind my back to force myself to work beyond what is comfortable and that has often produced great results. For me that might mean playing a different guitar or with different musicians or studios or trying to play a guitar part on a piano. I’m always trying to think of different ways to screw with the program a bit.”

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Outside of his solo guise Jurvanen has also played in numerous bands as a guitarist and that experience has taught him some important skills he’s tried to incorporate into his own songwriting and performances. 

“I played with Feist for a number of years. She’s a wonderful songwriter in that she understands economy and getting to the point of the song quickly. She’s a great singer and guitar player and she can take you to that place. I really like that idea and try to channel that idea of keeping it lean and getting to the point. Touring with Jack Johnson a lot over the last few years, even though musically we’re different, he puts out so much positive energy and the audience sends it right back to him. Being in a room and feeling that energy, there’s nothing better so we try to channel some of that when we’re playing. It can be hard to do sometimes but you try whatever you can to get there each night.”

With tour dates booked up until the end of the year Jurvanen is looking forward to a break in the New Year to start writing again. “I don’t write a lot of songs on the road. I really need to be at home for a stretch to play guitar and write some songs. I’m in a good spot so it’ll be interesting to see what comes next.”

Originally published in X-Press Magazine