New Orleans singer-songwriter Andrew Duhon, making his Olympia debut Friday, has stories to tell — personal stories that reveal universal truths.
“It’s utterly important to me that it feels like I’m speaking some truth,” he told The Olympian. “I don’t have time for the derivative Americana folk song. What is that I have to say?”
On 2018’s “False River,” what he has to say is about love and loss and longing. The album is, he’s said, a series of letters to a woman he loved and lost.
This heartbreak album has won the hearts of critics.
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“Just when you think no one needs another somber, reflective breakup album, Andrew Duhon refutes that notion,” Hal Horowitz wrote in American Songwriter. “With talent, creativity and a vibe that’s as hypnotic as it is hummable, ‘False River’ feels fresh, innovative and complicated in all the right ways.”
“He’s a soulmate of Van Morrison, lyrically and vocally, creating vivid dreamscapes out of everyday life,” No Depression’s Grant Britt wrote.
Indeed, the lyrics are front and center for Duhon, who considers himself a writer first.
He grew up listening to music made of “three chords and the truth,” as he puts it, and for him, songwriting has always been personal, confessional and intimate.
But on “False River” — the follow-up to 2013’s “The Moorings,” nominated for a Grammy for Best Engineered Album — the music took on new importance, he said. That’s thanks largely to bassist Myles Weeks and drummer Max Zemanovic, both hired as session players on “The Moorings.”
While the trio toured for four years to promote that record, “River’s” songs evolved and shifted.
“It became our deep goal to cultivate deep songs,” Duhon said. “They pushed me musically, and they helped inform the music that was moving my lyrics. They pushed me to write more than just the three chords and the truth kind of song.”
During that time, the band was touring about three weeks of every month.
“I didn’t say no,” he said. “We were happy to be on the road together letting it wear us down. We thought that was what was going to yield the best version of the new music. We needed to play together.”
In the band’s new configuration, with Jim Kolacek drumming while Zemanovic works with country hit-maker Miranda Lambert, the touring continues apace.
In fact, the band’s current outing is its second trip to Western Washington in five months.
“We were wildly encouraged by the turnouts last time, so we decided to see if we could come as soon as possible,” he said. “That was in September, and this was as soon as possible.”
This time around the trio has added shows in more cities, including Olympia, where Friday’s concert will be a benefit for Nature Nurtures, a nonprofit that brings together young people and animals to build empathy and teach responsibility.
Duhon, who admitted he’s still figuring out what love is all about and what he needs to say in song, has learned a lot about himself from this near-constant touring.
“The touring is inspiring not just because of the places you see but because of how you feel yourself,” he said. “In this ever-changing landscape, you remain the same.”
- What: New Orleans native Duhon, whose 2018 “False River” was nominated for a Grammy, brings his intimate and confessional songs about love to Olympia.
- When: 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11
- Where: Prosperity Grange, 3701 Steamboat Loop NW, Olympia
- Tickets: $20 in advance, $25 at the door. The show is a benefit for Nature Nurtures, a nonprofit connecting at-risk youth with animals.
- More information: brownpapertickets.com/event/3924665, andrewduhon.com
- Listen: Duhon and his band play a live version of “Like They Used To,” renamed “They Don’t Make ’Em” on “False River,” on YouTube.