Q&A with Soul/Americana musician Jimmy Deveney, parallel DNA strands from different sides of the musical spectrum

"Music is a medium of message. It is universal, and can get past mental barriers that conversation or argument cannot. At its best, it conveys the shared experience of being human, and can help change perceptions and point of view. I hope our music is a comfort and an inspiration to the listener. Knowing someone else has felt how they do, and is still here to sing about it, maybe that helps them keep on."

Jimmy Deveney: High Desert Soul

Jimmy Deveney is probably best known for his singing, writing and playing in the Austin, TX bands Horse Opera, (2007/2014), which morphed into the more soulful Palomino Shakedown, (2014/2019). Both bands spent many years touring nationally, and playing and recording in Austin. "High Desert Soul" (2023) isn’t just the name of Jimmy Deveney & the Hold Fast Union’s new album, it’s an apt description of the music itself. Parallel DNA strands from different sides of the musical spectrum - soul and americana - combined in not-so-mad scientist fashion to form an all-new double helix that adds new vocabulary to the roots music lexicon. It’s a culmination of where his music’s been going since relocating back to his hometown of Albuquerque, NM, a little over five years ago. “I think it’s been a long, steady move in this direction,” he notes. “I’m heavily influenced by ‘60s soul and R&B, and started exploring that gradually over the past couple albums, bringing in more horns and organ; I also started to use less and less fiddle and pedal steel. So that’s the thread that’s brought me to this record, it’s the direction I’ve wanted to go in for a long time.” Over 10 songs, High Desert Soul blends familiar touchstones in previously unheard ways. Think Sly Stone through an Americana filter, or Otis Redding in the vast White Sands Desert and you begin to scrape the surface of Deveney’s musical mindset.                     (Photo: Jimmy Deveney & the Hold Fast Union)

“This is where I am after 30 years of playing guitar and writing. I have a wide swath of influences but my focus, as far as songwriting, has gotten more refined. The more I write, the more introspective the songs get. I’m saying this stuff because I need to hear it as much as anyone else.” High Desert Soul, the music, is celebratory and reflective, pooling the energy and grooves of vintage soul with songwriting steeped in traditions that go back to the roots of folk and country. High Desert Soul, the album, takes that template and blazes new trails that make the unexpected feel immediately familiar.

Interview by Michael Limnios               Special Thanks: Larry Kay (Night Train PR)

How has the Soul/Blues/R&B music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I think the music that has influenced my creativity has also influenced my world view in the sense that much of the music I listen to shares the ups and downs of the shared human experience, and has a sense of struggle and yearning for justice to it. Much of the Soul music of the 60’s and 70’s was born of the civil rights movement and the cultural revolution of the 60’s.

How do you describe your sound and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

Its a mix of all that I am. Punk rock, indie rock, American folk and country, soul, R&B, and Jazz, thrown in a blender. Familiar sounds, cutting new trails.

What moment changed your music life the most? What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?

There are several touchstones of change in my music life and career. First time I heard the Clash, at probably age 11, blew my mind. I played piano and saxophone as a kid, but I got a guitar at age 12, changed everything. First time I really sat down and listened to Otis Redding at age 19 was a turning point. Getting to travel around the country to play music for several years, changes your view of the place you live, getting to play in Europe a few years ago taught me that music truly is the universal language.

"I miss that you had to work to discover new music. Dig through bins in stores, maybe buy a record just because the cover was cool! It was word of mouth, and seeing bands live, that drove album sales, as much as anything. Now the entire recorded history of music is at our fingertips, its great, but also overwhelming. Seeking out cool music was how I met cool like-minded people." (Photo: Jimmy Deveney)

What touched you from the art of luthier and the smell of coffee? What do you think is key for a good cup of cafe?

They are both a craft, a skill set. I have been interested in luthiery as long as I have been playing. It was a natural extension of my musicianship, to learn how the tools are built and cared for, and it has become a stream of income for me as well. Roasting coffee is also a skill set, and I learned it purely for the joy and love of coffee, I like my coffee simple, fresh roasted beans, pulled into an espresso shot, which is all about the right grind, time, and temperature.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I miss that you had to work to discover new music. Dig through bins in stores, maybe buy a record just because the cover was cool! It was word of mouth, and seeing bands live, that drove album sales, as much as anything. Now the entire recorded history of music is at our fingertips, its great, but also overwhelming. Seeking out cool music was how I met cool like-minded people.

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

Music is a medium of message. It is universal, and can get past mental barriers that conversation or argument cannot. At its best, it conveys the shared experience of being human, and can help change perceptions and point of view. I hope our music is a comfort and an inspiration to the listener. Knowing someone else has felt how they do, and is still here to sing about it, maybe that helps them keep on.

What's the balance in music between technique and soul? Is there a message you are trying to convey with your art?                              (Photo: Jimmy Deveney)

I think I lean heavily into soul or emoting with my music. It is absolutely necessary to be proficient on your instrument, but like jazz players say, you Gotta learn the rules in order to forget them.  I am trying to say, I’ve been there too, and you are not alone. I am trying to say we can all do better, and be better to each other, lead with kindness, and I need to hear these things most of all. Celebrate the joys, push through the lows, and know we are doing the same, with you.

"I think the music that has influenced my creativity has also influenced my world view in the sense that much of the music I listen to shares the ups and downs of the shared human experience, and has a sense of struggle and yearning for justice to it."

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

I am 50 years old, and as I have continued my career, how I see it, and what I expect from it has had to change as well. I don’t think I’ll be selling out Madison Square Garden anytime soon, but I continue because I love it, because I see it as a gift that was given to me to share, and because I don’t know how to NOT do it. I have learned to let go of expectation, and simply do it for the joy of creating. When a record is done, I also do my best to do the work to give it its best shot at success, but the results are no longer up to me.

Jimmy Deveney & the Hold Fast Union - Home

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