Strawberry Summer cover art shot by Hilly Holsonback.

Pop Music

Musician Jacob Metcalf Gets Romantic and Upbeat with Strawberry Summer

The Arkansas-born, Dallas-based singer and multi instrumentalist is moving away from his signature folk to a more pop-friendly sound.

Dallas musician Jacob Metcalf returns this Friday, July 5 with a new two-song collection titled Strawberry Summer. The mini EP is the first follow-up to Metcalf’s debut album, 2016’s Fjord. The duo of songs, led by “Run the Other Way,” explores the beginning and the end of young romance in breezy indie melodies that read as a little more “pop” than Metcalf’s past efforts. He’s shifted more toward what he calls Modern Western, a sound reminiscent of Dawes and Rayland Baxter. You can catch him playing at the Dallas Arts District Showcase at the Meyerson Symphony Center on Friday, July 12 at noon. We caught up with Metcalf to get his story, talk about his upcoming release, the progress of his second full album, and being a musician in Dallas. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Where are you from originally? 

I grew up in the tall pines of Arkansas. 

How long have you been in Dallas?

I moved to Texas in 2004 … It’ll be 15 years in August.

How did you get into music? 

I kind of developed a crush on my babysitter and she could play piano. I was 5 or 6 years old, and she could play [Danny Elfman’s] Batman theme on the keyboard, and when I heard that, it was sublime for me. I just thought that was the best thing I’d ever heard. I begged my parents, ‘Please let me play piano.’ They said no, because I was already doing Taekwondo and tap dancing, but eventually I exited those things to take full time piano lessons, kind of to the chagrin of my father who was a rock and roll guitarist. He played big gigs and festival stages, he played coliseums. I think it surprised him when I started playing classical music. 

So, you were surrounded by music your whole life. 

My dad got me into a bunch of classic rock and my mom was really into ‘60s Motown, so I had this really, really nice feather bed of music to rest my head on. 

You’re a multi instrumentalist. What instruments do you play?

I play a lot of instruments, mostly by necessity, because I have a lot of ideas and I don’t always have friends on hand who can scream out a trumpet line or bow a violin. I play a little bit of trumpet, I’m learning violin, but mostly my competencies lie in the string instruments world. Guitar, banjo, mandolin, and, of course, I never lost my enthusiasm for playing the grand piano. And I love to sing. I think the human voice has all the greatness of the symphony in the vocal folds. 

Do you play all the instruments in your songs? 

Heavens no. I’ll always invite a friend in to play something better than I could play it. 

On the most recent song, Dan Bowman plays trumpet on that.  He’s a community organizer and band leader, he’s the frontman of Fox and the Bird, a part owner of Small Brewpub, and also, Paul Grass played drums on that song and I just think the world of him. 

How would you describe the sound of your music?

To this point, the genre perimeter I’ve had in my head was to make cinematic folk music. With the first album, that was kind of the goal. For this current project, I’m trying to channel what I consider to be the new sounds of Modern Western. I think of it as a cowboy love song. 

How have you evolved as a musician since releasing your first album?

I think the shift has been gradual, but it may seem pronounced. In Fjord, every instrument had to be a natural instrument, an acoustic guitar, an upright piano, a trumpet. 

With this new shift, I’m actually using reverb, delay, elements that you wouldn’t find out in the prairie. I’m plugging in–I have an electric guitar now.

How’s your next full album coming along?

I’m so excited about it. It’s called Monitors, it’s gonna be a pretty nice departure from what I would consider to be my signature sound. I’m thinking that this next project will be less folk and more, man, I don’t know, not necessarily indie pop, I don’t know what genre you’d call it, but it dips a toe into futurism and it’s all about perception. 

I have all the songs written, they’ve all been demoed, it’s just time to start patching it together with the studio. 

You’ve been in the local music scene for a while now, have you seen much of a change in the last couple years?

I think it’s as strong as it’s ever been. It may be a rotating cast of characters in the sense that some of our favorites from the last couple years may be less active now but people are popping up. There’s so many good bands, so much talent, so much heart, I try to get out and see as many shows as I can, and it’s very inspiring. 

If you ever hear someone talking about the local scene and how they don’t really like it, my feeling it that they’re not getting out that much. We have a wealth of beautiful, evocative art happening around us.

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