Pokey LaFarge’s Hollywood Redemption
Updated: Nov 28, 2020
by Paisley Regester
I had the opportunity to chat with American roots musician, Pokey Lafarge, about his most recent album and his acting debut in the new Netflix Original film, The Devil All the Time.
Credit: Mark Regester
Pokey Lafarge, a native of Bloomington, Illinois, wrote his first song when he was just 12 years old about a girl he saw walking out of church one morning. Ever since, he has been writing music with a poetic passion and a wanderer’s soul.
‘I think what drew me to music is the same thing that draws me to art or travelling’, he described to me in an over-the-phone interview for Gaudie Arts.
‘I want to be taken away – not just physically, but transcendentally.’
He emphasised his belief in the power of music to momentarily numb our pains and guide us towards the path to internal healing, whatever that may encompass.
His own music, which has been heavily inspired by artists from the 1920s to the 1960s, is infused with the sounds of old country, blues, folk, and western swing. Despite this, he feels it is important to maintain a unique style: ‘I have never wanted to sound like anybody else,’ he said, ‘I think that just comes with trying to come up with something that feels, deep down in your soul, like it is authentically you.’
In April of this year, Pokey released his eighth studio album, Rock Bottom Rhapsody, which differs from his older work both instrumentally and conceptually. Unlike his previous albums, it does not include the use of horns, allowing listeners to focus more on the lyrics. Themes of finding redemption in the face of self-sabotage are at the core of this new collection.
Credit: Mark Regester
While composing this album, Pokey was cast in the new Netflix Original film, The Devil All the Time: a psychological thriller set in rural Virginia and Ohio in the aftermath of World War II. The film, which stars Tom Holland, Eliza Scanlen, Robert Pattinson, Harry Melling, and Bill Skarsgård, follows the converging stories of family and strangers as they navigate the sinister, corrupt, and oftentimes violent, experiences of a community possessed by the exploitation of religion.
Pokey became involved in the film through Randall Poster, a producer and music supervisor known for his work on Skyfall, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Grand Budapest Hotel. The two connected through Pokey’s musical contributions to the American crime drama series, Boardwalk Empire. Inaddition to acting in The Devil All The Time, Pokey contributed two songs to its soundtrack, ‘Washed in the Blood’, a rendition of an old Christian hymn, as well as a version of ‘Banks of the Ohio’, a 19th century murder ballad, which was featured in the end credits.
In the movie, Pokey played the role of Theodore, the brother of disturbed country preacher, Roy Lafferty. One of the challenges he faced while on set was the slow pace of filming. ‘It takes a lot of focus to stay in your part’, he described, ‘There was a lot of stopping and starting.’ Working alongside such experienced performers was also intimidating at first, but Pokey was grateful for how much he learned from working with them.
‘The pressure of being on a film with so many A-list stars made it quite difficult’, he said. ‘Without my co-star Harry Melling, who played Roy, I wouldn’t have known how to do what I did. He was such a professional.’
The cast, the majority of which hailed from abroad, also motivated him to broaden his acting interests. ‘I think coming up through the theater, especially in Britain, Ireland, and Australia, really made [my costars] solid, fundamental actors’, he explained. ‘They have given me the interest to work on the stage someday.’
For the past two years, Pokey has been living in Los Angeles, where he is hoping to sink his teeth into new roles and further his acting career. In terms of his music, the tours he had scheduled for this year were pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In previous years, however, Pokey could be found performing all over the United States and Europe. He even played a few shows at The Blue Lamp right here in Aberdeen.