“It gave me a lot of time to think about what I’m doing and reassess what I really want to be putting out into the world,” he says. “I recorded a lot, but mostly, I was just trying to have fun and get back in touch with just making music for the sake of making music.”
Under his Jau Ocean moniker, Irby released a collection of that music earlier this month as “Lifted.” His latest full-length project began life as a country record of love songs that he’d written for girlfriends over the last decade or so, which turned out “pretty sad,” he recalled with a laugh. But after moving into a new house and setting up a recording studio, Irby realized those country song lyrics could be repurposed with a new set of instrumentals.
“It’s an attempt to acknowledge and take a look at my love life, and take what I used to think were difficult emotional situations and find a way to make them happy, and accept everything,” he says.
“Lifted” is far from “pretty sad”: It’s lush, sun-kissed and psychedelic, with dollops of walloping funk. Even its most downcast song — his take on the Delta Blues of Louie Lasky’s “How You Want Your Rollin’ Done” — grooves with slide guitar and stomping drums.
Irby played all the instruments on the album, which will present a welcome challenge when it’s finally time to perform in front of an audience.
“I love it when somebody gives me a show offer, thinking that I have a band, and then I have to talk to like 30 friends and figure out who’s available and juggle it,” he says. “It always makes it exciting because every show features a different cast of local musicians … which is frightening and exciting.”