Today we are delighted to bring you the exclusive premiere of San Francisco artist Mike Rufo‘s new Folk/Americana-laden song, “A Place”. The track appears on Rufo’s upcoming second solo LP Nothin’ But Now, which releases digitally and physically tomorrow, July 15. Stream the song and enjoy a special Q&A below as Rufo took some time to talk with us about both the song and his new album.
1. What was the recording process like for “A Place”?
I co-produced the song and CD with Gawain Mathews. Gawain brought so many things to process: vision, instrumentation, and a particular sonic quality, which really came through on this track. He provided a really relaxed space to be with the music and performance in a way that flowed naturally and wasn’t forced or pressured. This song was all about creating the right layers and build, keeping with the acoustic focus of the album at the outset but also trying to capture some Leonard Cohen-esque drama and energy towards the end.
2. The lyrics are very positive and uplifting, reminding the listener that there’s room for everyone to belong and to ask questions. Did any particular event (or place!) inspire those lyrics?
I guess the event was the life change I had been debating with myself for a while, specifically, when I was going to re-shift my priorities to pursue more music and activism. This was one of the first songs I wrote for the new CD. It’s about stepping back to observe and appreciate our humanity, across all the things that might otherwise divide us, acknowledging our fears and our frailties, and coming round to the empowerment offered by our connection and love for each other.
3. Every song on the album feels different from the next, yet they all flow together very cohesively. What in your opinion makes “A Place” stand out from the other songs on the album?
Without intending it at the time, “A Place” captures a lot of the underlying intention for the whole album. It’s about being in acceptance of what’s happening in your life now, whether it’s something planned or something that was thrust upon you by life and circumstance, and then moving forward from that acceptance into deeper awareness, appreciation, and intention on where you want to go next with it.
4. Musically, the folk vibes of Nothin’ But Now are quite different from the rock & roll of your last solo album Streets of Plenty. What inspired this change of direction and how do you feel the new album represents you as an artist today?
I love having both my solo project, where I can focus on my personal and social change side, and the band, No Exit, that I co-front with David Johnson, where we let the power of the rock sound really drive the experience. The last few years have been great in that I’ve been able to explore my solo stuff, while at the same time staying an integral part of the growth and energy of No Exit. For me the two really feed on each other in a positive way.
As for the new album, once I created more time and space, it seemed my unconscious mind went repeatedly back to my earliest influences, like the folk music of Phil Ochs, Leonard Cohen, and Tom Paxton. There were more recent acoustic inspirations as well, from song-writers like Bruce Cockburn and Steve Poltz, to a number of great acoustic artists coming out of the Bay Area like Quiles & Cloud and Tom Rhodes. I think the new album also combines my earliest influences with the perspective that comes from a good chunk of living and experience. It also reflects my search for a middle path, especially in songs that have an element around social change or personal transformation. Whereas earlier I might have been more strident or angry, I’m looking to stay more with feelings, vulnerabilities, and positivity.
Many thanks to Mike for taking time out to speak with us. If you dig “A Place” as much as we do, you’ll be able to grab your copy of Nothin’ But Now over at Rufo’s official online store.