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indie-rock singer-songwriter Stef Chura today (Oct. 29) takes time out from her debut European tour to pay tribute to the late, great Silver Jews frontman David Berman with a cover of his band’s 1996 The Natural Bridge opener, “How to Rent a Room.” A portion of the proceeds from Chura’s new cover will benefit MusiCares, “a charity providing financial, health and rehabilitation resources to music people in times of need,” per a press release.
Chura has a history with “How To Rent a Room,” as she’s been known to perform it live in her solo sets, but today’s rendition came together quickly in the wake of Berman’s death this summer. The beloved late Silver Jews (and solo) songwriter, poet and cartoonist’s longtime record label Drag City announced his passing in August, later revealing his cause of death to be suicide. Chura, who was on tour at the time, decided to record her rendition of “How To Rent a Room” after finding the song took on a new significance after Berman’s death, as she explains in a statement:
“How To Rent a Room” has always been one of those songs that I could never let go of. Ever since the first time I heard it it’s always been one of my favorite songs and remains one that imprinted me as a young songwriter. Now, in light of his death, the lyrics take on a new and much sadder meaning. At the time they seemed conceptual, but the line “Now there’s a lot of things that I’m gonna miss, like the thunder down country and the way water drips” is now a haunting and deeply poetic rendering of everyday minutiae and the texture of our lives that we don’t appreciate on a daily basis. The song seems nostalgic for a life he was currently living, and how important it can feel to mean something to someone. Or at least that’s my interpretation.
Chura handles acoustic guitar and vocals on the cover, accompanied by Clara Salyer on lead guitar, Chad Stocker on bass and Clancy Ryan on drums—there’s a bittersweet warmth to the band’s performance, as if they’re pulling out an old photo album and leafing through fond, but long-gone memories. Chura and co. recorded their “How to Rent a Room” cover at Stocker’s home studio, per Chura, with mixing by Collin Dupuis and mastering by John Baldwin.
Chura released her sophomore album (and Saddle Creek debut) Midnight in June, delivering one of our most-anticipated albums of that month—the 12-track LP, produced by Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest, stood out even on a particularly loaded new album release day. Paste’s Steven Edelstone lauded Midnight as “a major step up from [Chura’s] 2017 debut Messes” in his review, deeming it “an indie record for the ages [and] a wonderful listen where each song is completely essential to the project as a whole.”
Chura’s aforementioned European tour is currently ongoing, with a handful of Euro and U.K. shows on the docket in the coming days, as well as a Nov. 15 show at the Magic Stick in the artist’s hometown of Detroit.
Listen to Chura’s “How to Rent a Room” cover and revisit her 2017 Paste session below. You’ll find her tour dates further down.
Stef Chura Tour Dates:
29 – Munich, Germany @ Glockenbachwerkstatt
31 – Paris, France @ Supersonic (free show)
02 – London, U.K. @ Mirrors Festival
03 – Newcastle, U.K. @ Bobiks
04 – Glasgow, U.K. @ The Hug & Pint
05 – Manchester, U.K. @ Gullivers
06 – Brighton, U.K. @ The Hope & Ruin
07 – Bristol, U.K. @ Hy Brasil (free show)
15 – Detroit, Mich. @ Magic Stick