Downtown Crowd

Chris Staples

In an age of bombastic performances and perfectly glossed studio productions, Chris Staples is an understated talent who favors subdued sounds, delicate strums, and hushed, meaningful vocals. He has been playing music for 20 years, as part of musical groups Twothirtyeight, Father John Misty, and Telekinesis. After years of touring solo—and a critically acclaimed album, “American Soft”—he is back on the road again with a four-piece band and a new digital EP, “Cheap Shades.”

Tell me about your experience in the independent music industry.
I started out making music and recording at home and loved doing it. At times I have had deals with labels but there were times when I went it alone, too. I kept going despite having a label or not. It’s a personal therapy for me. It’s always been hard to make music, but in the last 10 years, a lot of the money’s been sucked out of it. If you’re trying to get into it, get into something different.

You are a native of Pensacola. Is there anything about your upbringing here that influences your music today?
I think growing up in Ft. Walton Beach, it was a pretty quiet town to grow up in. There weren’t many distractions. I could spend all my time developing as a songwriter.

Who are some of your influences?
Tom Petty was a big one. Full Moon Fever was incredible. Bob Dylan, too. My interest has fanned out in a lot of directions.

What is your songwriting method?
It’s changed a lot in the last couple years. Often a line or idea will pop into my head. I have a bunch of one-liners in my phone. Sometimes I’ll have a musical idea or a chord progression in my head, then I’ll thread some of those ideas together to make it seem like they’re thematically connected. When I start a song, I don’t know what it’s going to be about; I’m not that intentional. I’ll take from a lot of words and ideas and cut them down and make them lean till I have something.

Tell me about your tour.
It started the last week in July with a full fourpiece band. It’s been really fun. I haven’t toured in a while. Playing solo is really hard, and best for more intimate spaces. If you’re playing at a club, it is going to be better having a band, and definitely a lot more fun. A band gels in unique ways when you’re playing every single night. It gets really fun and the songs get tighter. I really appreciate the collaborative aspect of playing music with different people.