Thomas Schoeffler Jr. is a storyteller, yet instead of writing books he uses an old time formula of revivalist stomp box country blues mixed with the grime of grunge and post-punk to tell his stories. Much like the artists he is influenced by; Johnny Cash, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, David Eugene Edwards, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Joy Division, his songs take the form of short stories. His lyrics set a powerful scene and like all great songwriters, he works in the realm of lost love, loneliness, darkness, and murder. Although he is from Strasbourg, France and English comes secondary he could easily provide the soundtrack for a show like True Detective.
We chatted with Thomas a little while ago and you can read it HERE! I love his last record “Jesus Shot Me Down” so when I received a copy of his latest, The Hunter I knew we had to get into the meaning and process behind his songs.
The Hunter picks up where the excellent Jesus Shot Me Down left off, opening with the roadside evangelical country stomp of “Daisies All Around” quickly followed by the downright dirty Joy Division styled “Sauerkraut“, my favorite track on the record. The Son House blues of “Oh, Mary Lynne” and the folky styling of “I Should Have Known” quiet things down a little before the stomp returns with the folky breakup song “My Baby Kissed Me Farewell“. The title track “The Hunter” is a dark and brooding tale of murder followed by “I’m Moving On” and the bruising blues wallop of “Hips & Lips” . “Why is Made of Tears” is a sensitive folky ballad that leads into the album’s closer, the Nick Cave-like dirge “You’ve Gotta Love Me Better Than I Did”.
Overall The Hunter is a little quieter than Jesus Shot Me Down, but it showcases a songwriter willing to look into the abyss which often, as in this case, leads to their best work.
Thomas was kind enough to give us the details on what he saw in the abyss.
Daisies All Around
This song is the only “country song” of this album.
It is supposed to be the link between “Jesus Shot Me Down”, my previous record and “The Hunter”.
It is a symbolic song about what you want and can’t ever have.
I was inspired by biblical parables and the Boulgakov novel “The Master and Margarita”.
In this song you will find me, speaking to the audience, about the necessity of not asking, not begging for something that you want. And maybe if you stop begging for new possessions, you will realize that all you need is already there!
This also one of my “happy” songs 😉 Here, for once, love wins at the end!
I think this is a song about a couple of slaves that tried to runaway from their masters.
In the first verse there is a reference to the great flood of the Mississippi river in 1844
In the second verse the characters managed to be free from their chains.
In the final verse, they didn’t make it and they are hanged from a cedar.
It might look very sad, but in the chorus you can see that the most important (part) is that they tried to be free and happy together no matter what it cost!
I tried to put in this song my new wave influences (I’m a huge fan of Joy Division, The Cure…)
The title, Sauerkraut has nothing to do with the content of the song. I just like how sounds this word..;-)
Oh, Mary Lynne
This is the story of a crow who fell in love with a farming girl named Mary Lynne.
He loves her, but he knows that they’ll never be together : she’s a girl and he is a crow…
I Should Have Known
A couple is attacked by a bunch of thugs.
The guy is beat up, left for dead, and the girl is raped and murdered.
Then the guy is asking for revenge and he kills his attackers.
After that he is arrested and condemned to death.
But he is not sad because his girl is waiting for him in the afterlife.
It is my tribute to murder ballads like Stack O lee, Omie Wise…
My Baby Kissed Me Farewell
I wrote this song when I broke up with my ex-girlfriend…
I wanted a long musical part at the end of this song, with a massive sound of electric guitar.
I tried to imagine what’s in the head of a killer.
The song is very quiet, and suddenly there is a storm in the middle.
Maybe it is the same for the character of my song. He appears to be calm, but we can sense that something is beyond his control…
I don’t know why I wanted to speak about dark stuff like that.
Most of the time the music comes first and then there is a word, or a sentence (in this case “they call me The Hunter..”) I don’t why this particular word or sentence came out but then I tried to write the lyrics from this word.
I’m Moving On
Originally it was supposed to be a cover from “Baby Please Don’t Go” but I wasn’t able to produce the authorization from the owners. So I had to go back in the studio to record new lyrics…
I had to work in a hurry and I’m not very proud of the result…
This song is my only regret on this album.
Hips & Lips
My first positive and kind of sensual song!
I imagined a musician, playing in some smoky jukejoint, looking at a girl dancing in front of him…
I used an open in a minor key and for me it is a song between 16 Horsepower and Tom Waits…
Why is Made of Tears
My saddest song ever, I think…
I wrote it one morning. The night before a girl pushed me away. I felt very lonely and this song came out.
This is the kind of song that you will never play during a show. It’s only working because of the musical arrangement.
I recorded it and I have never listened to it again since. This song makes me afraid me a little I think…;-)
You’ve Gotta Love Me Better Than I Did
Strangely, for me, this is a positive song !
It says that if you love someone there’s always be a light in darkness.
This is my “Nick Cave” song.
Photo: Bartosch Salmanski