With a career spanning three decades and a catalog of soloalbums filled with formidable, literate and endlessly fun rock ‘n’ roll, one could view Chuck Prophet as a practiced musical journeyman. Pose that summation to the San Francisco songstylist, though, and he will present you with a very different job descriptionfor what he does.
“I’m in the communication business,” he said by phone, lastweekend. “I’m in a business where I want people to go home from a show having feltsomething. I want to be able to connect with people.
“There has been so much moaning about the music business andhow Spotify is hurting everybody. I’ve never been in that part of the business. I’mjust a content provider. Once I get a record out the door, it’s a vacation for me to beout on the road — and, hopefully, for whoever shows up.”
A contemporary of Lucinda Williams (an early and lastingsupporter) and Alejandro Escovedo (with whom he penned songs for the latter’s “RealAnimal” album, which was recorded in Lexingtonin 2008), Prophet’s songwriting ingenuity and love of robust, pop-savvy rock and soul was most recently placed on display on2017’s “Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins.” The title references the famed pop starresponsible for “I Fought the Law.” He died at the age of 23 only months after the songbecame a major hit in 1966.
“I relate to Bobby Fuller on so many levels,” Prophet said.“He was a guy who was hopelessly out of step with the times, a greaser from Texas who worshiped atthe altar of Buddy Holly. He got out to LA where it was all about theBeach Boys and here they were these greasers. I totally relate to that because I thinkI’ve always been out of sync with whatever is going on. But the other thing that makes BobbyFuller interesting to me is that he was kind of a self-made dude. He really inventedhimself out of nothing. His early records were recorded in his parents’ living room. Heinspired me on a lot of levels.”
Having a central inspiration serve as a theme and thread foran entire recording isn’t new for Prophet. His 2012 album “Temple Beautiful”revolved around historical figures, locales and events in his San Francisco homeland.
“I guess I’m sensitive about falling into the singer-songwritertrap — you know, ‘Chuck went here,’ ‘Chuck went there,’ ‘Chuck’s coffee got cold.’All the romances start piling up like dead bodies. If I’m lucky enough to tap intosomething that keeps me interested, that’s exciting.”
While a Saturday show at Willie’s Locally Known will serveas Prophet’s first Lexington outing in six years, he has been a performance veteran oflocal clubs for more than two decades. In fact, when Prophet made a concerted effort toforge a national fanbase after establishing a strong overseas audience, Lexington became one of his first touringstops.
“Lynagh’s (Music Club, the long defunct Woodland Avenue venue which also served asthe original location of Cosmic Charlie’s) was one of about fiveplaces in the United States that would pay us more than 500 bucks. I’ve never forgottenthat. I mean, we had already done countless European tours and had all these records outon British labels. But eventually, around 1999, we got into the Econoline andstarted trying to make it work in North America. It wasbleak. Driving from Austin to Tampathen up to Minneapolis ...it was really bleak. We just had a few markets to play, but Lexington was one ofthem.”
In a career that has since earned a sizeable 2002 radio with“Summertime Thing” and placed him onstage as recently as last month on bills withThe Pretenders, what remains Prophet’s artistic strength is his consistency. Since his Lexington debut, he hasreleased a string of eight strong, critically lauded albums. None haveexactly skyrocketed up the charts, but all are filled a scholarly level of artful butimmensely accessible rock ‘n’ roll.
“I look around at other artists and start thinking, like,‘Wow, they’re really started slipping right about there.’ I don’t need to name names. Weall know who they are. ‘Ooh, yeah, got a little domestic there, a little sensitive.’
“I guess any day I wake up and am excited about what I’mdoing is a blessing, so I don’t take any of it for granted.”
IF YOU GO
Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express
When: 9:30 p.m. July 7
Where: Willie’s Locally Known, 286 Southland Dr.