By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
By Jena Ardell
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By Tom Murphy
By Tom Murphy
By definition, Boulder recording artist Jayson Munly Thompson, aka Munly, is a singer-songwriter: He writes and sings his own material, he plays guitar, and--most important--he does it all by himself. Ask the twentysomething musician what he thinks of the tag, however, and you're likely to get an earful.
"It's kind of rough being a solo artist," he explains. "If you're a male and you're from Boulder and you have a guitar, people automatically want to compare you to all that singer-songwriter crap. The papers are like, `Hmmm, the guy warming up? Let's see. He's a solo guitarist, so let's call him singer-songwriter Munly.' Until they actually hear me, that is."
Indeed, Munly's electrified avant-folk ballads have little to do with traditional music; if anything, they share a common bond with Brian Ritchie and Daniel Johnston, not Arlo Guthrie. Munly's upcoming debut, Blurry (on Boulder's W.A.R.?/Top Notch imprint), underlines that point. Featuring twelve freshly produced cuts ranging between thirty seconds and five minutes in length, the long-player--its first title, Blurry Polaroids, was altered when the makers of said cameras threatened to sue--showcases Munly's eccentric talents in all their glory. "The Virgin of Manhattan," for example, is a sparse, rhythmic ode in which the guitarist cryptically exclaims, "When you bring the virgin of Manhattan/I'm pretty sure/She'll even the score." The peculiar, calypso-esque "Baptists and Barbiturates," meanwhile, finds him pondering the reasons why "no one lives in Utah."
Also on the record is "Kidneys Running Dry," a politically incorrect original that ponders such eternal questions as "why boys with tattoos can't be Jews." Despite the song's humorous overtones, the guitarist admits that a handful of listeners have been offended by it. "Some people aren't too cool with that line," he says. "But I'm not trying to be political. I have nothing to do with politics. I hate that sort of music. That's one thing about music that really bothers me. I just don't want to hear it."
Munly's feelings about Blurry as a whole aren't quite so passionate--mainly because he hasn't heard it yet. "To tell you the truth, I don't know how it turned out," he concedes. "I honestly don't even know when I'll listen to it. I'm totally sick of hearing those same songs over and over. I'd be surprised if I ever listen to it, actually."
Given the guitarist's current agenda, he may never find the time to give his work a spin. In addition to being a musician, Munly spends a great deal of time painting ("It gives me the chance to get messy," he claims), drawing, fishing and writing children's stories; the last have been published in various magazines throughout the country.
In short, Munly could be dubbed a modern-day renaissance man--but he chooses to downplay this tag, too. "It's the same with those things as it is with my music," he reveals. "I honestly don't work very hard for it. I don't even think about it, really. Which is unfortunate, I guess. Unfortunate, but true."
If that's the case, the gods are certainly smiling down on the young performer. Over the years, he has managed to make some impressive acquaintances, including New York-based antifolk hero Roger Manning (the pair split a seven-inch last year) and ex-Replacements drummer turned solo performer Chris Mars, who is already slated to produce the singer's next effort. He's also tight with the members of the Reejers, a onetime Boulder foursome that has since moved to Chicago. Reejer Jon Ellison plays bass on Blurry, and the two acts have shared bills on several Midwest tours. Currently, they are hanging out together at Munly's lakeside retreat in Ellsworth, Ohio.
These connections aside, Munly claims that he is more or less disgusted with the current state of rock and roll. "I used to work at a record store," he says. "And I used to love a lot of bands. But I just burned out on it, I guess. Anymore, I get frustrated with what's out there, because I feel like I'm doing stuff that's maybe not better but different. More interesting--to me at least."
Upon the release of his new disc, Munly should find out how many others agree. "I guess you could say that music is my main focus right now," he concedes, "even though I really don't feel like a `professional musician.' I mean, I've never even sent out a demo tape before. It all just sort of happened this way.
"I guess I am a musician, though," he continues, chuckling. "Music is what's paying the bills right now.