If you have read anything about Daniel Pujol, chances are you have heard that he is “The Philosopher King of the Nashville scene,” which is, without a doubt, a huge title to live up to. If one thing becomes apparent while interviewing Daniel, it’s that he doesn’t particularly care to be held to any sort of grand statement. We also can’t fail to mention that, whether he likes it or not, the title seems to be pretty on-point.
Raised just south of Nashville, in Tullahoma, TN, Pujol made his way to the “Music City” after deciding to leave college. “Well, I went to community college for a year in Tullahoma,” explains Pujol, “worked a pizza delivery job—which was like Twin Peaks in overalls on meth—saved up enough dough to move to Murfreesboro and attend MTSU, then I started going to shows and volunteering at a community center in Nashville called Rocketown, until I got hired there part-time.” Going back even further, we asked Pujol what instrument he first learned to play, to which he responded, “The Bb clarinet, and the first song I learned to play was probably from a RPG soundtrack, like Final Fantasy 3 or something. Yeah, I said it.”
Speaking of Nashville, it is clear that Pujol is indeed loyal to his hometown. “Honestly, Nashville is my favorite place to play because I live there,” he figures, “and it’s a hub that allows a consistent creative dialogue. At their best, the shows in Nashville are pretty well organized and allow a reciprocal relationship between who is playing and who is there, and that is really the only kind if show I’m interested in playing.” (Over the summer, Pujol plans on throwing more house party shows that live up to this standard.) Nashville, as many people know it, is a country town but Pujol explains why its so much more. “Country is just its flag on the moon, but it’s an industry town. There’s every style of anglophile tunes there. All the genre stuff is interconnected, and most people’s parents are in the country industry or industry veterans, but their kids are in a crust punk or noise band.” Although this image is pretty amusing, Pujol defends his town, saying “There aren’t cowboys trying to beat me up or anything in front of the Lifeway building.”
We then moved on to talk specifically about his music. “To be frank, a lot of my earliest recordings are my favorites because I had cool stuff like, ‘a room’ to record them in.” says Pujol. “My recordings change and evolve based off of the resources I have around me. The earlier stuff is my favorite because it was done at home, on my own time, and with familiar resources and I could play the same part one time or a million times to get it how it needed to be. I just keep going forward and I really don’t have the time or money to calculate it: I just keep writing and recording.” Last year, Pujol worked with a man who is so infamous in the industry that he rarely needs introduction—that man is of course Jack White. Pujol casually describes how the collaboration came about; “I sent out some emails looking for a drummer that could tour in my ensemble, and we crossed paths and started talking. I got a 4-piece ensemble going, we did some tours and worked up a well-orchestrated set and once the live performance was drafted and tight, Third Man [White’s record label] officially offered collaboration. It was a great experience. They were polite, easy to work with, and I learned a lot from it.”
Having heard Pujol’s thoughts on his music, his hometown, collaborations and more, we feel completely confident describing his music as “genuine” or “authentic,” words that are oftentimes applied too liberally. As Pujol explains, it all comes naturally. “In terms of being ‘genuine,’ I feel like it would be pretty pointless as a human being to just veil stuff with a trendy aesthetic to launder what I’m communicating. I mean, what really makes something a trend anyway?” he then adds somewhat facetiously, “I bet it somehow involves reactionary-economics.” We also discussed how the Internet plays into the fast-paced production of trends and fads in all artistic mediums, and how the World Wide Web can be an artist’s best friend as much as their enemy. For Daniel Pujol, “the positive side of the blog culture is that if no one wants to put out my record, it can just go on the Internet for free. I don’t feel like I’m at the mercy of anything or oppressed by the Internet, I want to use it in a human way, and not cross my arms and pout about it.”
Apparently, while Pujol filmed the video for “Black Rabbit,” they had a bit of a run-in with some coyotes during the hula hoop scene. “We were out in the middle of nowhere at about midnight in December and we were being watched by a whole lot of coyotes on the opposite side of the gorge. They would howl at us. It was cool until the flashlights we bought at Big Lots started going out.” As Pujol gears up to play some shows in NYC, he is also “working on some new releases for next year starting in the fall. Scheme-wise,” he concludes, “I’m just trying to ride the tiger and not get bit.”
For those of you in NYC, don’t miss Pujol while he is on the coast. He plays at Death By Audio on June 14 and Cake Shop on the 15th.—Annick Mayer