While McPherson's music is heavily influenced by '50s rockabilly, there are more modern shadings in his writing and playing as well. He remembers first falling for '80s pop when his older sister plopped a pair of headphones on his 5-year-old head and turned him on to Duran Duran's “The Reflex.”
“It was like ear candy to a little kid, you know?”
The next phase of McPherson's informal musical education came from his dad's blues records. He was mesmerized by the songs of Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, and the much older recordings of Charley Patton and others.
“One guy with a thumping foot and an electric guitar was kind of my favorite thing,” he said.
Then the records of his much older brothers — albums by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and the Allman Brothers — caught his ear.
And then came punk.
“I was kind of a weird kid in this very rural environment, and I start rebelling and listening to punk rock and hard-core, some of the burgeoning alternative music that was happening in the '90s,” McPherson recalled. “That's really kinda when I guess my brain sorta turned on and I started thinkin' about writing and doing something, because the greatest gift of the punk ethos is the kind of economic freedom that kind of lets you make something out of anything. And you can put a lot of time into it, but you don't need to invest much more than just enthusiasm.”
And finally, he discovered Buddy Holly, which was perhaps the beginning of McPherson's own fully formed sound.
“It's sort of like midcareer Buddy Holly stuff, which is funny to say, 'cause his career was very, very short,” McPherson said.
“His stuff with Sonny Curtis, the Decca stuff, and that kind of like hit a chord I guess, because it had all the stuff that I liked but it was a country guy doin' it, and I just liked it. It's just fun to drive around and listen to it. I liked the guitar style on it and everything, I liked the textures and sounds and stuff. That one thing led to another. ... When I started getting into early rock, that was probably the most consumed I had been, to discover music.”
With all the touring and TV appearances, there's barely been time to start work on his next album, but some ideas are in the can, and a new McPherson album could arrive by early 2014.
And while vintage rock still will be the touchstone, the teacher-turned-troubadour promises some twists.
“There's the ability to push the songwriting a little bit, I guess experiment with the form of rhythm 'n' blues and rock 'n' roll. Because, honestly, it didn't last very long. At least the vocabulary we work with. It was pretty short before it started to change. So we kind of feel like there's still things you can do with it, and so maybe there'll be a little '50s psychedelia coming out. We'll see. Who knows?”
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