Seems natural since his latest album, "Temple Beautiful," is about all things Bay Area, including that famous bridge, baseball great Willie May, the Rev. Jim Jones, legendary punk rockers the Dead Kennedys and more. The musical leanings are something of a surprise to Prophet, who was raised in Orange County, Calif., but credits his move to San Francisco with his real introduction to culture. When he shared some of that initial excitement he felt about discovering the music and style of San Francisco with his co-writer, San-Francisco-based poet klipschutz, the song ideas just flowed. The duo went with it, and the album was born.
"We just started writing, it was fun. We had crumpled pieces of paper and were working on riffs, and things got modular. And after a while we thought there might be a demo version and then we could refine it," Prophet said. "To be honest, I really don't know what I'm doing when I'm writing songs."
|Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express with Clarence Bucaro|
|Two area shows:|
|8 p.m. Monday, Rams Head On Stage, 33 West St., Annapolis; $20, 410-268-4545; ramsheadonstage.com|
|8:30 p.m. Friday, Iota, 2832 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; $20; 703-522-2354; iotaclubandcafe.com|
We'll certainly take Prophet at his word, but you'd never know it from his success in bands, as a solo performer and as a collaborator with everyone from Lucinda Williams to Aimee Mann and Warren Zevon. He's recorded a host of albums and has had major artists such as Heart cover his songs. His other high-profile work includes co-writing the songs on Alejandro Escovedo's 2008 album, "Real Animal."
Not that you'd ever know his A-list music status just from talking to him. Just like the city he's called home for three decades, Prophet is very laid-back, friendly and open. That free-spirited style is likely why his songs work so well.
"These songs aren't very arranged," he said. "We aren't saying, 'OK, here's the place where the strings come in.' You can hear that on [some pop bands' music], and to me, after a while, it sounds like a bunch of non sequiturs tied together with an aching voice. I just kind of wonder if that makes me sound old and cranky."
It likely makes him sound just like a veteran of the music business who has sacrificed his major label work -- notably his eight years with country rock band Green on Red, which the New York Times called "By far one of the best bands in the United States for almost an entire decade" -- for his art.
"I have been doing this a long time," Prophet said. "It's worked out to my advantage now. There's just a lot more fun and opportunity."