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'I’m thoughtless, but I’ve got a lot on my mind': Meet London poet/guitarist L.A. Salami

L.A. Salami will perform at the Entry tonight.

L.A. Salami will perform at the Entry tonight. Photo provided by the artist.

“Unassuming” isn’t the first word that you usually associate with an artist on the rise.

But singer/songwriter L.A. Salami takes the attention in stride. “I got lucky, I guess,” he says by telephone from London. “Talking about things from my perspective just seems to resonate with a few people.”

Maybe it’s because Salami (whose initials stand for Lookman Adekunle) has had so much to talk about since he first received a guitar at age 21, just a decade ago. The songs on his forthcoming City of Bootmakers (due April 13) and earlier releases (one album and two EPs) exemplify his outlook on life in the increasingly dissonant 21st century.

Salami, who’ll be at the Entry tonight, is a poet who describes himself “as a performer with a guitar” instead of a musician. The evidence is in his wordplay, like the opening lines of “My Thoughts, They Soon Will Tire,” from his 2016 debut album Dancing with Bad Grammar: The Directors Cut: “Leave your answers for the bones/It’s not just you alone who knows/That the shadows ‘neath the road/Won’t last forever.”

The song winds like an exquisite corpse but delivers a more collected logic. It’s a good example of how Salami’s approach defies type—you’ll hear influences from folk to rock, blues, and punk on his recordings. And he’s also a filmmaker and visual artist. (His works will be on sale at the show.)

“It’s like with anything, you choose the right words to explain, the right sounds, melody, you choose the right type of vocal delivery,” he says. “It might sound like something around a particular genre, but it’s about staying true to yourself. Stay true to the whole sound of what allows you to convey your message in the most honest way.”

On “City of Bootmakers” (a nickname for London), Salami delves into the charged political, racial and economic concerns of his urban home (and other cities globally) with the hope of influencing personal introspection. The album “represents the things that are good and bad that inspire me,” he says. “Much starts with the tangible problems but moves into the intangible problems. If you really haven’t dealt with the inner workings of the human condition, tangible problems are a place to start.”

“Generation L(ost)” reflects on a familiar existential confusion. “I’m ageless/But I’m out of time/I’m thoughtless/But I’ve got a lot on my mind,” is an apt response when social contracts between governments and people seem tenuous at best. “Terrorism (The Isis Crisis!)” juxtaposes the horror of attacks with the political gain from fear-mongering and the disquieting connection to western policy in the Middle East. A complex conversation, for sure, but Salami breaks it down with plainspoken ease.

Yet even as he tackles the big topics, Salami never loses sight of the day-to-day minutiae that “kick you lightly in the shins” on a regular basis. And that sensitivity to the universal experience is what renders Salami’s songs so resonant and timeless, because we all spend the majority of our lives in similarly ordinary—and unassuming—moments.

L.A. Salami
With: Cat Clyde
Where: 7th St Entry
When: 7:30 p.m. Thurs. Mar. 29
Tickets: $18+: $12; more info here