AFIE JURVANEN, THE MAIN MAN BEHIND BAHAMAS, IS CONSTANTLY LOOKING FOR WAYS TO THROW NEW LIGHT ONTO HIS SONGWRITING AND PERFORMING EXPERIENCES, AS HE EXPLAINS TO CHRIS FAMILTON.
Musicians react in different ways to their own work with the benefit of hindsight and after their songs have been critiqued and performed in concert. Almost a year to the date that Jurvanen’s most recent album Bahamas Is Afie was released he is still engaged in the songs and finding new ways to explore and present them.
“I still really like playing the songs. 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.”
Jurvanen’s approach to reimagining and challenging his songs live has also manifested in the studio where, on the last album, he took on the role of playing most of the instruments himself.
“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.”
Outside of his solo guise Jurvanen has also played in numerous bands as a guitarist and that experience as a player on other people’s songs has taught him some important skills he has tried to incorporate into his own songwriting and shows.
“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 will be 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.”