Chuck Prophet plays The Acorn in support of The Land That Time Forgot

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Chuck Prophet and his band, The Mission Express, performed five outdoor concerts on Sundays in August at the Twin Oaks Roadhouse in Penngrove, Calif.

They booked the shows “to kind of dip our toes in the water,” he says by phone from San Francisco, where he lives. “Then we kind of backed off a bit. “

This week, Prophet and The Mission Express dive back into that water with the start of a month-long tour of the Midwest and East Coast that includes a concert on October 28 at the Acorn in Three Oaks.

This is the band’s first tour since March 2020, when they and the rest of the music industry canceled live performances due to COVID-19.

“People ask me if I have written a lot,” Prophet said of the pandemic. “The honest answer is, ‘Not really, no.’ I have the impression that there was a lot to take. “

In some ways, however, he seems to be enjoying the break.

“On a personal level, I’ve been on a treadmill making records, playing shows, running to get to the soundcheck on time without a break for a long time,” says Prophet. “It was interesting spending a good chunk of this year looking out the window, I guess.”

Californian boy

Born in Whittier, California, the 58-year-old Prophet grew up in Orange County but moved north to San Francisco in 1983.

“I grew up in a fairly conservative family,” he says. “A loving family, but I wanted guitar lessons and my dad gave me golf lessons.”

Chuck Prophet and his band, The Mission Express, are finally going on tour next month to support their most recent album, "The land that time has forgotten," released in August 2020 during the pandemic.

A song from his latest album, “The Land That Time Forgot” from 2020, takes him and his listeners back to his childhood in this part of Southern California.

“Literally in the fourth grade, we went on a school trip and the teacher said, ‘The kids are looking around. You are in Richard Nixon’s first law firm, ”he said of the“ Nixonland ”base. “From that song, I thought about growing up in Nixonland and walking along the beach with my sister in San Clemente.

But memory is a tricky thing.

“After that song came out, I was like, ‘Did I dream about this?’ He said. “So I went to Mr. Google, and it turned out that was the building, and it was demolished in the 1990s.”

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Prophet joined Los Angeles-based alternative country rock band Green on Red in time for the band’s 1985 album, “Gas Food Lodging,” and has appeared on 10 of Green on Red’s albums, including live recordings and albums. post-break compilations.

In 1990 he released his first solo album, “Brother Aldo” and has released 14 albums since then.

But that wasn’t until 2002’s “No Other Love” and the single “Summertime Thing,” which reached number three on Billboard’s singles charts that summer.

From there he built a loyal following with his concerts and a constant stream of richly textured rock and Americana albums.

“The thing is, it’s not like I’m a bunch of heritage artists with a bunch of hits and people want to go out and have a nostalgic break, which is great,” he says. he. “I would love to have hits. But the cruelest thing a band with hits can say to their audience is, “This is a new song. »… I say that as a joke, a little.

‘Black’ feeling

Prophet’s music generally resides in the same universe as that of Dave Alvin, Willie Nile and James McMurtry.

Character-driven, his songs sound like short stories and have a cinematic feel.

Aidin Vaziri of the San Francisco Chronicle called his music “dark,” and that’s an apt description. When asked about this, Prophet says that black influences are “everywhere”, from films of the 1940s and 1950s to those of the Coen brothers. He mentions novelists Patricia Highsmith and Jim Thompson, then offers a quote from Thompson.

“He had two typewriters, and he wrote on two at the same time,” he says of the author of “The Killer Inside Me” – also the title of a Green on Red album – and “The Grifters” “. “He would skip a few pages, and when he was bored, he would turn his chair around. He said, ‘It’s really not that hard. There are a million stories to tell, but there is only one plot: people are never what they seem. It really is the key to darkness.

But, overall, says Prophet, he doesn’t like hearing people talk about their creative process and isn’t sure he likes hearing himself do it.

“But I keep doing it,” he says. “I think people would be shocked at the number of rewrites of certain songs. Maybe I don’t rewrite as much as I used to. I have pages and pages of verses and settings. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily make the song better.

Chuck Prophet, center, and his band, The Mission Express, will perform on October 28, 2021 at The Acorn in Three Oaks.

Collaborative spirit

For his latest albums, Prophet co-wrote most of the songs with klipschutz, the pen name of poet Kurt Lipschutz.

“I find that when we walk into the room together, we never run out of things to talk about,” says Prophet. “I describe it as touching two sons together. There’s always a spark to keep us going, and before we know it, we’re arguing over where we’ll be having lunch.

Prophet’s has also collaborated with many other artists, including Kelly Willis, Jim Dickinson, Kim Richey and, most importantly, Alejandro Escovido.

“Create an environment where people feel uninhibited,” he says of the key to successful collaboration. “I think it’s really important. This is where a lot of good things come from.

With Escovido, Prophet co-wrote all the songs on Escovido’s 2008 album, “Real Animal”.

“This is a good example of how we took a very uninhibited approach to writing these songs, and as a result, they ended up being very personal,” Prophet said. “It’s kind of where I am these days. If I can learn something about the person, I’m more drawn to them rather than tying a bunch of lines together and having them spin on the page.

But he gets enigmatic when it comes to how personal or autobiographical some of his songs are. The “Nixonland” sister is real, but the 2017 “Coming Out in Code” brother is not.

“Everything is true, even when it is not,” said the Prophet. ” I do not have any brothers. They are characters. You write characters. How many of me are in these characters? I do not know.”

Chuck Prophet made his debut in the early 1980s with alternative country rock band Green on Red and has released 15 solo albums since 1990.

“The time that the earth forgot”

Prophet intended to release “The Time That Land Forgot” in May 2020, but it was pushed back to August of the same year after the pandemic.

Now, after more than a year since its release, he and The Mission Express are finally able to hit the road and promote the album.

“One of the great pleasures of playing live is working on new songs for the new album,” he says, “especially if these are songs that people are excited to play.

The Mission Express – Kevin White, Vicente Rodriguez, James DePrato and Stephanie Finch, Prophet’s wife – should be eager to add the songs from the album to their setlists.

Highlights include the reserved and upbeat “Best Shirt On”, the frenzied tale of despair “Marathon” and the dark-edged rocker “Fast Kid”.

In addition to “Nixonland,” the album contains two other “Presidential Songs,” the elegiac “Paying My Respects to the Train,” about the people who gathered to watch Lincoln’s funeral train bring his body back to Springfield, and “Get Off the Stage,” ostensibly humorous advice for Trump.

In January 2020, Prophet did an acoustic tour of Texas “to have these new songs at my fingertips” and performed all three “Presidential songs”.

“When I sang ‘Get Off the Stage’ the best thing was the jokes landed and I laughed,” he says. “That’s all I want.”

“The Land That Time Forgot” also adds to Prophet’s songstore on music and musicians, whether it’s the couple “making Metallica go up real loud” in “Willie and Nilli” or the daydream of “High as Johnny Thunders “, a reference to the late New York Dolls guitarist.

Previous music-related songs include the title track from the 2012 San Francisco-themed album “Temple Beautiful”, about a rock club from a long time ago, the title track from her outstanding album by 2017, “Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins”. This album also includes “Bad Year for Rock and Roll”, which begins with a lament over the death of David Bowie in 2016, and “We Got Up and Played”, a song about a band that does just that regardless of the conditions. .

Chuck Prophet, center, and his band, The Mission Express, will perform on October 28, 2021 at The Acorn in Three Oaks.

“I think there is a tradition in there,” Prophet said. “I think there is a tradition that people write about their heroes. One of my favorite songs from Dylan’s Christian era is a song called “Lenny Bruce”. It’s one thing, and how many relationship songs does the world need?

Now it’s time to get up and play for him and The Mission Express.

“I’ve done a lot of records, so we try to mix them up, putting a little emphasis on the new record without the lineup going too far into the unknown,” Prophet says of the tour’s setlists. . “We’re playing a good show. We try not to waste people’s time.

In concert

Who: Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express

Or: The Acorn, 107 Generations Drive, Three Oaks

When: 8 p.m. October 28

Cost: $ 65 to $ 40

For more information: Call 269-756-3879 or visit acornlive.org

COVID Precautions: Masks and proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test (from previous 72 hours) are required at The Acorn.


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