Pokey LaFarge Balances Art & Personal Life on 'Better Man Than Me': Premiere

Nate Burrell
Pokey LaFarge

For Pokey LaFarge's new album Manic Revelations (out May 19), the rootsy singer-songwriter decided to make it a hometown affair.

"Going into 2016 we capped our touring at 60 shows, so then all the touring was pretty much done in September but we had to start recording again," LaFarge recalls to Billboard. "Doing the record like we had done every record before, in another town, wouldn't really jibe with our whole mentality. So we finally decided to record at home, and it was cool. We could walk to all our favorite places we go to every day, a lot of Mexican restaurants, the coffee shop, the bar -- all two blocks from the studio. We could sleep in our own beds. I woke up every morning, kissed the wife goodbye and went to work."

LaFarge is certain that environment impacted the songs he came up with for the album, but not necessarily in a concrete fashion.

"When you're writing a song you don’t really know where it comes from," LaFarge explains. "I feel like it's open to interpretation; Later on you might recall what you were writing about, but you don't really know when you're writing the songs. And for me songs come out of a dream state a lot of times, when I'm relaxing or when I'm napping. At the same time they can come in a manic state of driving or walking up and down a street having just talked to different people. That's how this album came about; I was always doing something, always staying busy but at the same time finding the opportunity to be very prolific."

LaFarge wrote the honky-tonk flavored "Better Man Than Me" with Chris Seefried (Fitz & the Tantrums, Low Stars), finishing it in Los Angeles. "It was kind of a groovy melody, the music, the vibe of it," LaFarge recalls. "It was kind of a doo-woppy, R&B thing at first. Then with Chris, he heard it from the point of view of Queen's 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love.' That's kinda where we came up with the bass line and went from there." The opening lyric, meanwhile -- "I'm trying really hard to be a better man/But it's easier doing wrong" -- set the song on its thematic path.

"It's just a feeling a lot of people could have, especially musicians," LaFarge explains. "You come to learn that people in your life have to understand that if they're gonna stay with you that there's only so much of you you can give when you're an artist. And they will inevitably end up being second in your life sometimes, if not altogether. But if I was asked to decide between my art and anything in my life, obviously my art would come first. There's just all kinds of conflict that can arise from that, so that's what the song's about."

Manic Revelations comes out at a time when LaFarge's profile is enjoying a bump thanks to CMT's Sun Records series, in which he portrayed Hank Snow for six episodes. "I guess they just needed somebody who has a big forehead and big ears," LaFarge quips. His own "Wanna Be A Man" was used for the show as well, and he's happy with it as a lead-in to potentially more acting work.

"I haven't had time to pursue it, but people have suggested it before and I figured something would work out some day," he says. "It was pretty cool. It was a lot of work, but I met a lot of really sweet people and got to learn about how the TV business works, from the camera grips all the way up to the director. So it was definitely a worthwhile experience; Hopefully people enjoyed it, and obviously if I get some exposure from it, it would be great."