Josh T. Pearson promised himself he wouldn’t shave until he put out a second record. Now he hasn’t seen his face in “over ten fucking years” and doesn’t know what he’ll do with the length of ashen fodder he’s grown when his new album Last of the Country Gentleman is released this spring. “I’m not looking forward to it,” he says. “I think I’m old now, I was real good looking before.” The Berlin-based Pearson is back in his home state of Texas, a place he hasn’t visited since the last time he checked in to keep his citizenship legal. He’s lost his phone and bought a motorbike, but it stopped working and there’s snow on the ground. A guy from Slovakia and two British buddies joined him for the trip and they’re eating good Mexican food together, going to the mall and the church and the gun club, maybe Six Flags.
Pearson grew up all over Texas before ultimately settling in Denton in the mid-’90s for college. He didn’t get a degree but started a well-received band called Lift To Experience that made a heavy-psych concept album about the end of the world. The music was a three-person collaboration but the songs were written by Pearson, the results of a conscientious attempt to capture something sacred from his tightly held, absolute beliefs.
After living in Denton for almost 20 years, Pearson suddenly moved two hours’ drive south and bought a house for ten grand. “It was more just for therapy, to get my head screwed on straight. Kind of cut everybody off, my friends and family, living like a hermit there for a while,” he says. “I moved out there to the heart of it, digging for something, kind of stared into the face of it and didn’t like what I saw.” So Pearson escaped again, this time even further from home. He moved to Berlin, where rent was cheap and married a German girl.
Without much explanation, he says he then left Germany for France because he lost a bet in a card game, but he was more likely propelled by his breakup with this German wife, the woman who once called him “the last of the country gentlemen” and to whom he is still legally married. More than the album’s title, Pearson makes from all this seven long, large-gestured and muddled songs that sound like a gruff breakup letter.
When I ask how old he is after he makes fun of my youth, he has no straight answer, save that he’s old enough to know that 23 is a fine year to be a woman. Soon someone will have to come collect him to make sure he gets back on a plane to Berlin, where he may set things straight and final with his estranged lover. I imagine he will probably also continue taking on new ones, finely crafting stories for them before moving on, seeking some relative solitude to unburden his heart.