Singer/songwriter Jeremiah Akin has lived from one end of the country to the other, grew up schooled in New Age philosophy and hard-shell Christianity, and has studied both creative writing and theology in college. And he’s written music about most of it.
The Moscow, Idaho, artist plays a show on Friday, July 13 at Rovali’s that will feature songs shaped by his unconventional upbringing.
He spoke with the Standard-Examiner from Pensacola, Fla., a place where he once lived and still has friends and family. He lived there until he was 10, when his mother moved them to Idaho on a whim.
“The best explanation I got for the move was that she had an existential moment on her friend’s porch, who had moved up there ahead of her. So I would say that I am a little bit of Florida, and a bit of the Northwest.”
As a small child, Akin was both home-schooled and sent to Montessori. He lived what he describes as a New Age background. His first experience with public school was in Idaho, in his early teens. There, his mother met her second husband, who was very involved with his church. The boy, who never had gone to church, started attending regularly.
“So much of my music is about reconciling those diverse experiences,” he said. “It created a sense of longing in me that I think you can hear in a lot of my music. I don’t do strictly major-key diatonic stuff. I play stuff that is not easily resolved, that sometimes even sounds dissonant.”
Akin always wanted to play music for a living, but like many before him, he didn’t see it as a practical profession.
“But once I decided I was passionate about it, I decided I had to pursue it hard,” he said.
His early influences were quite diverse, including composer and ex-Oingo Boingo frontman Danny Elfman, especially his soundtrack work for Tim Burton and others. Tom Waits was another influence, especially his earlier jazzy songs.
Punk rock may have been the biggest factor in Akin’s development. An older stepbrother brought records by bands like Pennywise and The Offspring into the house, piquing Akin’s curiosity further.
The fact that he has such diverse interests caused Akin problems early on when he started making his own music.
“I’d hear things by even a big group, like Fleetwood Mac, and think, ‘How do I incorporate that?’ Sometimes drawing from these drastically different influences is too big of a task. I am learning that you can’t often incorporate everything. You’ve got to serve the song, in the end.”
Akin went to what he describes as Bible college for a time in Seattle, before returning to Idaho and taking up creative writing studies at the University of Idaho. His higher education experiences alone demonstrate a wide range of territory explored, spiritual and otherwise. But Akin declined to discuss exactly where he stands today on his religious views.
“I do view my music and my writing as a spiritual exploration.” He laughed. “In fact, there are times that I don’t want it to be that way, and it ends up that way after all. But I’d say most of what I want to say about my religious views are reflected in my music. You can discover it there.”
But Akin also cautions not to look for straight-up biography in his songs. He often likes to explore his subject matter through a character’s eyes, rather than his own.
“I like dealing with characters, even if at times it is a projection of what has actually happened. I really don’t like to put too much of just me into a song.”
Akin is now at work on his second album, with fellow Idaho singer/songwriters Cooper Trail and Bart Budwig in supporting roles.
“I was really hoping to get this album done before this tour, but going to school and working part-time did not allow for that,” he said. “But we are getting there, and it was really good to have help from Cooper and Bart. Cooper drums for me and Bart records and mixes, but I also consider them strong collaborators with me, giving me creative input.”
Akin said that he will come in with complete songs, but then tell Trail and Budwig what he is hearing and ask for help achieving that sound.
“I’ll record with my guitar and vocals and then Bart will say, ‘I like this, I don’t like this — what if you did this here?’ And Cooper does the same kind of thing. We have similar influences. Cooper likes the energy, that Jack White raw kind of sound. And he is good at finding the rhythms I need.
“I will come in and basically beat-box something, and he can find the perfect rhythm that is running in my head. That kind of connection is rare to come by. I’m grateful for it.”
- WHO: Jeremiah Akin
- WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday, July 13
- WHERE: Rovali’s Ristorante Italiano,174 Historic 25th St., Ogden
- TICKETS: Free with dinner (artist’s tips appreciated). Information, 801-394-1070.