If you are born and raised in Idaho, then it seems quite likely that folk music probably runs through your veins. You could say that’s the case with Boise, Idaho resident Jesse Blake Rundle, who will release his sophomore album Next Town’s Trees early next year. With a nice little blend of folk, pop, rock, and electronic music, Rundle has taken his songwriting game to the next level with this record’s eight brand new tracks, expanding his composing and lyric writing abilities with songs that feel more emotional as compared to his 2020 debut Radishes and Flowers. The songs for Next Town’s Trees were written while many changes took place within Rundle’s life.
Some of these changes were significant modifications that Rundle made to his life, including leaving the church and coming to terms, both privately and publicly, with his sexuality. Feeling free of the emotional and intellectual constraints of the church, he began his first relationship with a man, finding happiness and comfort in being himself and being true to himself. He also felt more settled in his life as a professional musician, which included quitting drinking, and feeling comfortable living a life of sobriety.
Blake Rundle is an evolved songwriter, and things seemingly could not be going any better for him at the moment. As a lot of great songwriters do, Rundle finds a lot of inspiration within books and literature. Today, he joins us for our inaugural Fahrenheit V13 interview, in which we discuss his favourite childhood book, his reading habits, his book collection, and the least memorable book he has ever read.
What was the most memorable book from your childhood?
Jesse Blake Rundle: “A View From Saturday is a young adult book about a group of geeks doing quiz bowl in elementary school. One of the kids’ dad had died because there was a spider in the car, and he got in an accident. I think about that often when I’m driving, how a tiny little thing could kill me on the spot; I guess it’s an embedded fear. That book also taught me the apocryphal origin of posh (port-out-starboard-home) and tip (to-insure-promptness).”
How important were books and reading in your family growing up? Did you share that same level of enthusiasm, or did you differ from them on that?
“I was always pretty bookish, starting with that BOOK IT! reading program from Pizza Hut in first grade. A personal pan pizza (the end-of-year prize) is a pretty strong motivator! I grew up on a farm pretty far from most of my friends, so I had a lot of time to myself to read, and I really loved it. That continued when I ended up at St. John’s College, which is a ‘Great Books’ program and requires reading tons of the classics in literature, philosophy, and science. So I guess books are pretty important to me.”
What is the book that has made the most impact on you as a person?
“The Courage to be Disliked changed my life when I read it several years ago. It’s written like a Platonic dialogue, but it’s based on Alfred Adler’s psychology. It challenged my worldview about relationships and emotions in a way that was really unsettling at first. The book’s mantra of ‘courage and contribution’ has really driven a lot of my decisions since. It’s really important to me, even though I wouldn’t say I agree with all of it.”
Who are your favourite writers?
“I love Virginia Woolf and Wallace Stevens. They both offer a unique perspective on the world, the self, and people, and it makes all their writing fascinating. Mrs. Dalloway really opened up my mind to modern lit and so many of those characters and lines stick with me. Stevens’ poetry is like an intricate puzzle that’s a pleasure to solve, if you ever can. When I was writing my Radishes and Flowers album, based on his book Harmonium, I got to know his poetry so well it’s become a part of me and how I think.”
How many books do you own? Any titles or editions you’re particularly fond of?
“Oh, it’s a lot. I’ve got a few hundred books scattered around the shelves or stacked on end-tables and nightstands. I like to read many books at the same time, and usually just read short sections. I am often reading Emerson essays or a few of my favourite poets like Dylan Thomas, James Wright, James Tate, or Yeats.”
What book do lots of other people enjoy that you just can’t stand?
“I really can’t handle that book The Alchemist, which often gets recommended to me. It’s that genre of cheesy life advice that ends up just feeling so trite and empty. I know I’m probably wrong about this, but I hated it.”
How often do you find or make time to read? Are you paperback, hardcover, or eBook?
“I read most mornings while drinking coffee. It’s usually just a few pages, but it’s just enough to get my mind going and remind me there’s a whole world out there and all of history and that I’m just a small part of it. And I definitely prefer pocket paperbacks. That’s the best format.”
What’s your most controversial opinion on books and literature?
“It’s much more valuable to read books you don’t totally agree with than books that say what you already think, but smarter.”
Have you read any musical biographies? If so, any favourites?
“Jeff Tweedy’s autobiography is a wonderful book by a fascinating man. He tells so many great stories about seeing bands growing up, falling in love, his complicated family, etc. It’s a joy.”
What’s the longest book you’ve ever read? Did you enjoy it despite its length?
“When I was in college, I crammed all of War and Peace into a week. I was reading almost all day, every day. It was exhausting, and the book was confusing. I mainly just enjoyed prefaces to the different sections.”
What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read?
“I once tried to read The Taming of the Shrew and got confused by the names and accidentally read The Turn of the Screw, a thriller by Henry James. That scared me quite a bit. Also, was never allowed to read Goosebumps books, but I snuck in a few when my parents weren’t watching. That gave me nightmares about savage devil dogs.”
What’s the worst book you’ve ever read?
“Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit stands out as the worst. It’s incomprehensible, poorly written, and seems kind of pointless. I don’t understand why it’s ‘important.’”
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