Fedora-clad troubadour Pokey LaFarge reaches deep into the American roots tradition to build tunes fit for toe tapping, swing dancing and kazoo riffing. With a list of heroes that includes Bill Monroe and Jimmie Rodgers, his taste skews retro, but he's a thoroughly modern heartbreaker with a penchant for hitchhiking. I asked the St. Louis-based artist about touring in support of his latest album, Middle of Everywhere, which brims with Western swing, Midwestern country blues and far-out jazz sounds. LaFarge plays the Stoughton Opera House Dec. 10.
So, Pokey LaFarge, why are you called Pokey LaFarge?
Pokey is a nickname from when I was a kid. It's something my mom would call me when it was time to hurry up and I was dragging my heels.
It seems like you're anything but pokey with all of the touring you've been doing for Middle of Everywhere. What's the best part of being on the road?
It gives me the opportunity to perform, which is what I like to do most. I also get to travel and see different places each night. It's a great way to get to know this country I love.
Have you visited Madison before?
I actually lived on Johnson Street for a little while when I was 18 or 19 and hitchhiking around the country.
What are some of your favorite Madison hangouts?
The Weary Traveler is the first one that comes to mind.
That's fitting. I know you've toured overseas as well. What's it like performing old-fashioned Americana for a modern, non-American crowd?
A lot of people in Western Europe are happy to see American roots music performed because they directly influenced it. Irish music is a huge part of early American music, along with Scottish and English music. A lot of fans over there seem to be really into early blues. I like to explore that with them and push it into the future as well. American music is the tops: People respond to it all over the world because it's expressive and powerful.