Bahamas brings folk rock and soul to Brooklyn

While “Purple Rain” was once a common part of Canadian singer/songwriter Afie Jurvanen’s set lists, no one would mistake him for an R&B singer. The artist better known as Bahamas’ measured folk rock has found a following both across our northern neighbor and in the U.S., and he’s won the Adult Alternative Album of the Year at the Junos (Canada’s version of the Grammys).

But there’s a tremendous amount of not just soul, but soul music on “Earthtones,” Bahamas’ 2018 release, aided by two new collaborators: bassist Pino Palladino and drummer James Gadson, musicians who have worked with artists ranging from electro-funk duo Chromeo to country superstar Keith Urban.

amNY caught up with Bahamas to talk about the influence of this particular rhythm section, writing the album, and how it’s all come together on tour.

What inspired you to reach out to Gadson and Palladino?

There was a period that I was listening just exclusively to that D’Angelo record [“Black Messiah,” the R&B singer’s 2014 release]. And it was really just the energy and the feel of it. I don’t know what it is about his music, because his album “Voodoo” – which is more than 20 years old – [is] still relevant and fresh and so modern sounding. How do you do that? And so I just started focusing on the drums and the rhythm section, trying to find what was it that was making my head move. I’m not going to make a real R&B record, but to work with people who have that sensibility was really attractive to me.

Your writing process had to change thanks to some new additions to your family. Did that produce any nerves or fear heading into the creation of the album?

At one time, I was more attached to the guitar, and the idea of the guitar being the sort of tool that will unlock my songs. The only thing that really stays with me about this writing process is that I was able to write songs with no instrument. That’s largely a product of having young kids and not having a lot of time. You work with what you can. For me, that meant working in the car during the 10 minutes that I was going to pick up one of my daughters from day care or stealing 20 minutes when dinner’s on the stove. That was a bit frustrating at first, and then at some point I was like, “This is amazing. I have my musical mind with me wherever I go, and I don’t need an instrument, a studio or any specific equipment.” That unlocked a whole new area of songwriting. Even this morning, I was walking around Detroit, going to get coffee and working on something, just an idea, and it’s really liberating.

How have these new songs fit in with your back catalog?

I love it. After touring for the last 10 years I realized what I lacked in my set as far as playing live, being able to play and headline festivals, and having enough songs to carry the whole thing. It’s not necessarily about rocking out the whole time or having uptempo songs, but there’s something about the energy that has to be at a certain level. This album came out in January; we’ve been on tour steady since then. It’s incredible as a performer and a writer to have people singing along. That’s a pretty luxurious position to be in as a performer. I’m just trying to enjoy it – it wasn’t like that 10 years ago, and it probably won’t be that 10 years from now.

IF YOU GO: Bahamas performs on Thursday at 8p.m. at Brooklyn Steel, 319 Frost St., Williamsburg, $30, bowerypresents.com

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