Buck Meek is lounging sleepily in the garden of his home in Toppanga Canyon, high up in the Santa Monica Mountains, a little north of Los Angeles. Away from the bustle of the Californian state, Meek has found calmness and energy, embracing the utopia that he stumbled upon when moving there a year and a half ago. "California is amazing in wintertime. It's so warm in the day, and then up in the mountains it gets a little chilly at night. I have a little potbelly stove here, and it gets just cosy enough without being too cold." Having spent so many years on tour, both as a solo musician and as guitarist in the rock band Big Thief, Meek has found the time he's had this past year to reflect vital. He's surfed, learnt elements of the guitar previously vague to him, and further embraced the wonder of country music. It's also allowed him to release his new record, the beautiful 'Two Saviors'; his most personal record yet.
Meek's sophomore solo album captures not only the spontaneity that naturally flowers from within his music, but, for the first time within his solo work, a desire for healing from its narrative. "Every element of every song on this record means something to me. On a deeper level, every symbol that may appear abstract or oblique to someone listening to it for the first time, holds a really symbolic meaning for me. It's part of this puzzle that creates a greater meaning for me, I'm being as honest as possible with myself in my observation of nature, the outside world or my reflection of my own internal environment". It's a maze of thoughts, feelings and remarks, unearthed and physically released through Meek's quaint mutterings, or in the subtleties that develop within the group's minimal takes in recording. It's honesty and exploration, channelled into something comforting and revitalising.
As we explore the complexity of country, Meek also shares his essentials in life - the beauty of a soft alarm clock, the subtle power of wind chimes and the importance of learning and understanding.
So my first absolute essential is clean water, the cleanest possible water.
I'm lucky enough to live on this piece of property (in Topanga Canyon, California) owned by a woman named Gail, who's been here since 1972. She's cultivated this land with all these fruit trees and succulents, and she's built all the structures herself by hand with materials she's found from the creek, and she filters all the water on the property, including the hoses and the bathtubs and the drinking water, through this gigantic, six-foot-tall carbon filter.
I didn't realise how important it was to me until I lived here, until I could really feel the impact of clean water in my system. My skin has never felt like cleaner and softer and I can feel it in my vitality. I'm cooking my food with it as well, cooking my rice and my coffee tastes better.
Of course, when I'm out in the world and I'm thirsty, I'll just drink whatever I can get. But I’ll do as much as I can do to provide clean water for myself, and I can really feel the immediate benefit of it. The power of water is so incredible, it’s power to clean, to reinvent and to revitalise. Overall, I think it's so important to have clean water. It's such a huge part of us.
It's very important to me to have a good hat in my life. One that I feel is an extension of my identity, something that fits and provides a sense of shelter, protection and warmth. I love how a hat can exaggerate or assist in social graces; to remove a hat upon meeting a friend or a stranger, or to provide air on a hot day to defend oneself, or to protect you from the rain.
There's this element of shelter that comes with a good hat that I think is really essential for me, I can be completely dishevelled and wearing clothing covered in dirt, but if I have my hat on, I'll feel so completely awake and put together.
There was a time when everyone wore a hat every day because it was necessary, and I think part of it was just this element of reverence that people had for each other and for the world, humbling themselves by removing their hat and holding it to their chest. It’s a symbol of your independence and your stability, but whenever the time comes to open yourself to a conversation, or to go inside and remove your hat upon entering someone's home, or sitting down at the dinner table, it helps divide those moments of protection with openness, and I love that about a hat.
I was lucky enough to have a hat made by the Texas Hatters in Lockhart, which is, I believe, the oldest millinery in Texas. My man Dave at Texas Hatters has these beautiful old wooden lasts, these wooden carvings of the crown of a hat which they have in every possible size and shape. So you go in and you choose your crown shape and a block of felt. Then they mould your hat on the last and they press it with steam and an iron for four days, then they put it on your head, and they shape your brim with steam right there on your head. They’ve been doing it for generations, so I am lucky to have it.
Of course I grew up with loud alarm clocks, but recently I've just basically been playing my favourite records as my alarm and changing them every day. It's a new song every morning, it starts softly and just grows in volume, and it's just enough to pull me out of sleep without any abruptness, and I can really feel my life improved from this small thing. Sometimes I do return to some songs, especially more ambient ones - there's an album by Julianna Barwick called Nepenthe that I use pretty often, or I'll wake up to Grouper, or this incredible Ethiopian piano player named Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou.
I think how you wake up is really important. I start my day with a moment of curiosity, softness, and I guess beauty. Waking up to something beautiful has a big impact on my day, I'm pretty sensitive in that way. I also sleep really deeply; I have a really hard time waking up. I think it helps if it sounds like they have one foot in the dream world too, that can also help bridge the gap a bit.
Wind Chimes are another thing that I didn't realise were so essential to me until I had them. But again, I moved to this home about a year and a half ago, and the property is covered in wind chimes that Gail has hung up over the years of all different shapes and sizes, throughout all the different trees. So there’s this constant soft ambience that prevails in the wind and it's so grounding, it gives me such a sense of grounding. I can hear them from within my house too, which is beautiful. It allows me to rest more within my home without feeling anxious to go outside and be in nature, because I feel the sound of nature is entering my space. It allows me to work more inside feeling that need.
It's such a subtle thing that I don't even realise that I miss it, and I don't realise when it's gone, but when it's here, I definitely feel it. It's just this simple instrument that is harnessing nature to create music, basically. The sound is helpful in my own process of not getting too trapped in my own human obsessions and trying to control everything; or me, I often reflect my own human experiences or challenges through nature, and I think that you can pretty much draw an analogy from every element of nature and gain perspective or insight into your own experience. Nature has been really important to me in that regard, as well as just observing it in its inherent beauty and power.
From what I understand, one of their beliefs for instance is that medicinal plants aren't here to help us selflessly. I think that humans so often have this belief that medicinal plants are there for us to heal us, but we perceive that in a somewhat selfish way. They believed that the plants are there to heal us so we can heal the world. The plants are here to help us remain healthy and strong and in touch with what's right and what's good, so we can give back to the world and not destroy it. They believed if we can heal ourselves, we will just naturally heal the world, so trying to stay in touch with that is essential to me.
Buck Meek's Sophomore solo record, 'Two Saviors', is out now via Keeled Scales. Watch the video for his latest single 'Candle', below.