Jack Klatt thinks you need more love in your life.
The 34-year-old local musician has crafted his new album, It Ain’t the Same, around precisely that premise. “Love seems like a thing that we need, really badly, more than ever right now,” he says.
Klatt has always gravitated toward sad love songs, but on the new album he explores all kinds of love with levity and delight. He expanded his definition of love from being about romance between a couple to “empathetic, big, capital L love,” he says.
“Prove My Love” is the most upbeat love song on the album, and its tone also marked a shift for Klatt. “I did intentionally try to get away from the heartbreak stuff. It’s just such an easy emotion to tap into. Pain, the negative things we get handed in life, are really easy to channel into art. And a bunch of great stuff comes out of it, too, but with this batch of songs, I was thinking, ‘You know, what about falling in love? What about something positive? Why not use that to make something?’ Which, funny enough, had never occurred to me. I guess I used to think of songwriting as a cathartic thing and with this record, I was really thinking about the audience more than myself.”
He was also thinking about the current state of our country. Klatt wrote many of the songs on this album in the wake of the 2016 presidential election and was influenced by the subsequent cultural shifts in society. “I don’t like to get too political, but it’s hard not to in these times,” he says.
The most blatantly political song on the album is “Caught in the Middle,” a song that came to Klatt out of the blue and wrote itself in a mere two hours. It started with the idea that the world is upside down and that we’d have to stand on our heads to make sense of it. The song examines perspectives of several people who feel like they’re on the fence politically. “I think there are a lot of people who are duped and are getting targeted with misinformation and are confused and can maybe feel something in their gut that’s going really rotten but they’re not sure what to do about it. It’s a disempowering kind of feeling,” he says.
While all of his songs come from a personal place, he insists he’s a private person. “My hope is that people can relate the tunes to their own life,” he says. To further that goal, he paid special attention to avoid gendering the lyrics, another change for him.
Stylistically, what makes this album unique in his catalog is the amount of time spent in the studio. Klatt’s previous two records were made in two days each, “in a flurry of worrying about money and time,” he says. “With this record, I made the decision going into it that I was just going to focus on the music and not let anything stop me.”
He assembled a studio band with John James Tourville on electric guitar and pedal steel, Casey McDonough on bass, and Alex Hall drums and piano. They recorded at Hall’s Reliable Recorders in Chicago, where Hall also wore the engineer hat. “He’s a genius. I’m convinced of it. Very talented man,” Klatt says.
While in the studio, the guys were “vibing through the songs, figuring out what they want to be, what we can get away with,” he says. “We did it kind of old-school. We figured stuff out as we were recording it. That was really fun, just exploring with the band and trying out new things.” They even recorded more than one version of some of the songs in the name of experimentation.
To pay for the recording of the album, Klatt picked up a job at a musician friend’s fabrication shop in northeast Minneapolis. “He ended up teaching me how to weld. I took to it really quickly. I’ve been making a bunch of strange metal structures over there over the last year,” Klatt says. The most recent job he completed was making metal frames and a dance floor for the First Avenue exhibit at the History Center.
The fabrication shop also served as the location for Klatt’s music video “Prove My Love,” in which Klatt and local visual artist Alberta Mirais dance in the dark with flashlights. “It was like a weird dream,” he says of the set. “We had a hazer going. It was lit very beautifully and so different than the fluorescent lights of the hum-drum of the day-to-day.”
Klatt has come a long way from his humble start in the music industry. A mostly self-taught guitar player, he had bands as a high school student in Woodbury, but it wasn’t until he moved to Minneapolis for college that he got deep into the local music scene. He’d go see Charlie Parr or Spider John Koerner play to learn guitar technique. He also made friends with fellow musicians like Page Burkum and Jack Torrey of the Cactus Blossoms. “We’d get together and play guitars and trade songs. It was very inspiring. I felt like I’d found my people for the first time,” he says.
He often called in sick to his job at UPS to busk in the skyways. “I really just wanted to play music. I just loved it and I was probably testing the waters to see if it was a viable money-making thing. Aside from that, it was mostly just fun,” he says.
Klatt soon dropped out of his cultural studies program and took off for San Francisco, where he crashed on couches and busked on Haight Street. Soon Minnesota called him home, though. “I realized I hadn’t looked in the moon in like two months,” he says. “San Francisco is a big concrete jungle and I’m kind of a country boy at heart.”
Minnesota is where his friends, family, and fan base are, too. When he plays around the state, people often come up to him after the show and share how meaningful his music is to them. Once, he played “It Ain’t the Same,” the title track off the new album which is about living with the absence of someone special, at Papa Charlie’s in Lutsen. Afterwards, audience members approached him and shared that the song resonated with them because a skiing buddy of theirs had died recently.
“That’s the stuff that really will keep me going, more than getting a big hit. I’m more interested in affecting people, positively,” Klatt says. “I hope these songs can be a positive part of people’s lives, something that can help people get through hard times.”
With: Brianna Kočka and her band
Where: Turf Club
When: 9 p.m. Sat. Oct. 12
Tickets: $10 – 12; more info here