Jann Klose's Music Reflects His Varied Background
Forget Japan: Jann Klose is big in Indonesia.
The songwriter and guitarist is something of a cult figure there, and he's still not sure exactly how it happened.
"It's a really weird thing," he says with a laugh while on the road in New Jersey. "People are still posting this song ["It's Not the Way," off the Black Box EP] that radio [there] played the shit out of a few years ago. Then they started playing my newer stuff as well, but it's hard to put an actual finger on it and find out what would happen if I showed up there. There's definitely something going on, and one of these days I'll have to go there and find out what it is. Maybe it will be my Rodriguez moment."
Recently rediscovered folk musician Sixto Rodriguez remained virtually unknown for decades, even in the United States, before discovering he had a cult following in South Africa. Klose, at least, already has a devoted following in the states, stemming in part from his performances at Jeff Buckley tribute concerts. That led to an association with Gary Lucas, a former guitarist with both Jeff and Tim Buckley. Which is how Klose ended up in 2012's Greetings from Tim Buckley as the title character's singing voice.
Inspired by his participation in the movie and some deep research into Tim Buckley's music, Klose recorded an a cappella version of Buckley's "Song for the Siren" for his third release, Mosaic.
"The movie had a lot to do with it," he says. "The song hit me so hard, I felt I had . . . It's just one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. I've never recorded a cover for any of my other albums, but I just felt I had to do this one."
Klose hopes the Buckley association will yield increased interest in his own music, a world-influenced (but not world music) array of sounds tied together in a grooving, atmospheric pop package.
Born in Germany and raised in Kenya, South Africa, Hamburg, and Cleveland, Klose easily incorporates his African and Caribbean influences with jazz and soul. Not to mention a deep dive into Americana, using such unexpected instruments as banjo, violin, and accordion on his decidedly pop-shaped songs.
"[My influences] are really all over and all across the board, and that's why I tend to pick up on different styles and want to incorporate them [into my playing]. I get bored very easily," he says. "So I try to use new instruments and unconventional arrangements.
"But I'm also a purist. There's always that dichotomy in me that says, 'What can we give it here that will give it a unique sound?' and on the other side, 'But how is it going to fit?' I don't want to just try something for the sake of trying it. I want to try something and make it work.
"Because I grew up in all these different places and traveled a lot in my life, it's made me more of a whole musician."
Despite the star-studded lineup on his album, this tour has Klose going it alone.
"It will be my right hand, my left hand, and the guitar I'll be holding," he says with a laugh. "I write the songs with just me and a guitar anyway, so everything has to work from that perspective. Then you can add the band and other things.
"I don't mind solo shows at all," he adds. "It's kind of cool because it brings it back to the real basics, and people dig it."
Who knows? Maybe afterward, he'll also be big in Phoenix.
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