Joachim Cooder has made quite a bit of music over the years, whether with his father Ry Cooder (including the Buena Vista Social Club), as a producer in his own right or scoring films. So it means something when he says the upcoming EP Fuchsia Machu Picchu — whose “Everyone Sleeps In The Light” is premiering exclusively below — is “probably the thing I’ve been most excited about.”
“I feel like this is the most real thing I’ve ever done, the most representative of who I am,” Cooder tells Billboard about the seven-song set, which comes out March 30 and is in his mind his first true solo effort. “I feel like it’s not part of any other thing. It’s very just me with my influences I’ve had since I was really young, growing up around people like Ali Farka Toure or seeing John Lee Hooker live at a really young age. There’s certain thing about this record that makes me think about all those things and how I’ve come up through these things.”
Relocation and changing life circumstances were key to making Fuchsia Machu Picchu. He had already started composing the title track, as an ode to a yard plant at his home in Santa Monica, Calif., when he and his wife, Juliette Commagere, went to Nashville three years ago to produce the debut album for Carly Ritter, Tex Ritter’s granddaughter. Commagere was pregnant at the time with the couple’s daughter, and Cooder found the confluence of elements inspiring him to write.
“My brain started changing a little. I didn’t take things so seriously,” he recalls. “I was in a different house, and I think in the face of becoming a dad I felt like I was no longer the center of all my attention. It was snowing. Just getting out of my surroundings into a new place, I just did something different. And I was able to keep going.”
It would take time, however — about two more years, by Cooder’s reckoning. “After my daughter was born I could no longer leave and drop ever tying and go record and be so cavalier about everything,” he says. “I was always writing things, but it took time to finish.” His daughter, however, wound up becoming part of his creative process, too.
“A lot of the songs are things she said,” Cooder reports, including the track “Elevated Man,” about one of her dolls. “All of her objects have inner histories and lives, and all the little dolls have stories. It’s this ongoing thing, and so much of the stuff she says just goes into the songs. It’s better than anything I would think of.”
“Everyone Sleeps In The Light,” meanwhile, is comprised of “pieces from a lot of places,” including a title that came to Cooder in a dream, which he pitched to a friend who in turn declined it. “It just stayed with me and I started piecing it together, stuff that my daughter said and this story that just kept evolving. I kept writing verses and taking things away and it was all there in the end.”
Cooder — who’s joined on Fuchsia Machu Picchu by his wife, who sings harmony (and is expecting again), and his father, who plays stringed instruments — confirms that there’s plenty of other material he continues to develop. More EPs are likely to be in his future, though he’s not sure when yet. “I thought an EP would be cool because then I could do another EP in a shorter amount of time than trying to do a whole record,” he says. “I can release EPs quicker — at least that’s the idea.” Meanwhile, he’ll be on the road this summer with his own band, opening for and playing with his father, who has a new album coming out.
“It sort of in a way reminds me of his earlier records,” Cooder says of the project. “They’re like old gospel songs he’s kind of re-worked, with a lot of just good playing and a couple that he wrote. It’s an exciting, lively record. I think people are excited about it.”