Chris Pureka: music from the road and the heart

By |2018-01-15T23:41:25-05:00April 13th, 2006|Entertainment|

Chris Pureka has come a long way from hammering on instruments as a band member in The Sparks, which she now only categorizes into one genre: “terrible.”
“We were banging around on instruments that we didn’t know how to play,” she says, laughing.
But that was in third grade. It wasn’t until the singer-songwriter was much older that she took music seriously and mastered strumming – not pounding on – a guitar.
Pureka crafts melodic arrangements with emotionally intense lyrics, mostly based on personal highs and lows. On her first full-length album, “Driving North,” Pureka weaves intricate imagery from her travels during her first tour alongside progressive folk poet Alix Olson with the aftermath of a breakup.
“I’m best at writing about things that are at a very personal, more emotional level,” she says. The lyrics to the title track evolved until they embodied the emotions of hanging on to a lover even when all that’s left are “sad, sad songs.”
“It was like the first song I wrote after I went through this breakup,” she says. “It was the first song that came out about a week or two after it happened. I kind of always remember it that way. It has a sense of hope or optimism.”
“Porch Songs” refers to her 2001 summer tour with Olson. “It kind of branches out a little bit and it’s basically about friends mostly and traveling,” she says. With the profusion of fresh images and new life, she’s baffled as to why few musicians write from the road, especially since it’s a chief source of inspiration for her lyrics.
“I’m surprised that more artists don’t write more about being on the road,” she says. “I mean it’s such a part of our experiences as musicians.”
While much of her writing reflects life’s avenues, she steers clear of gay issues, even if it’s something she relates to. “I never really wrote and I still don’t really write necessarily about queer issues or queer politics,” she says. “It’s not really like where my art comes from.”
The only exception was during high school, when she found herself unable to associate with other teenagers her age. “I wrote one that I played a lot. It was sad. It was about my experience with being a queer teenager.”
Growing up in a small Connecticut town, Pureka remained closeted until she attended Wesleyan University, a liberal environment where she felt comfortable enough to come out to her peers. “It wasn’t easy or anything but it was a really safe environment to do that,” says Pureka, who now lives with housemates in Massachusetts.
During college Pureka studied biology and worked at a microbiology lab before pursuing a career in music. “One thing about trying to be a musician is that you can’t really start when you’re a lot older,” she says. “If I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna do it now.” But, if all else fails, she has biology to fall back on. “If this whole music thing doesn’t work out,” she says, “it’s totally possible [I’ll pursue biology].”

About the Author:

Chris Azzopardi
As editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBTQ wire service, Chris Azzopardi has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Cher, Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, GQ, Vanity Fair and Billboard. Reach him via Twitter @chrisazzopardi.