Robert Lester Folsom on Becoming a Documentary Subject

Music Features Robert Lester Folsom

An affinity for rain and otherwise gloomy weather traditionally can be found with more emo-slanted music or, you know, Shirley Mason. Robert Lester Folsom’s work certainly dissects emotional matter, taking a cross-slice of a certain feeling and holding light up to it in the form of serious guitar flanging. However, its psychedelic warmth seems a poor fit when paired with a downtrodden mosh pit.

Yet, Folsom and Mexican Summer’s Anthology imprint deemed Ode To A Rainy Day the perfect fit for the re-release of his archives from the early ‘70s. He grew up in rural South Georgia, where the sun cranks on high most days and outdoor activities reigned champion on a 1960s/1970s young person’s list of recreational options. But when clouds darkened and flooded the sky, Lester and his comrades would retreat indoors to tinker with music.

“When it rained we couldn’t swim or anything, so we’d record,” Folsom tells me over the phone from his current home in Jacksonville, Fla. The collection released in October.

The soft-spoken, bright-eyed artist released his only proper full-length Music And Dreams in 1978. When nothing major happened in its wake, he eventually made his way to Jacksonville where he had a family and worked as professional house painter. In 2010 Mexican Summer re-released it, sparking his jumping on official CMJ showcases and enjoying some critical praise. Life has been kinda weird in general for the past four years for Folsom. So when Keith Abrahamsson from Mexican Summer reached out and wanted to talk about a potential documentary, Folsom was immediately nervous.

“Meanwhile my wife was telling me, ‘Are you kidding? This is great!’” he says. “But, you know, she wasn’t the one who was going to be on camera the whole time.”

The effort, suitably titled Robert Lester Folsom, is out today. It marks the first in an exciting biographical documentary series from Anthology. The filming transferred Folsom like some manic time machine, lurching him right back into his past in itsy bitsy Tifton, Ga. His recording band from Music And Dreams, Abacus, joined in on the reunion. “Everybody had gotten older but their character was still the same,” he says. “It was so cool.” The wistful notes in his voice make it sound like he was still a little tangled in the dreamy memory. Bit it’s not like the experience left him with any delusions. “We all age but we have the same spirit as we get older,” he says. “I think most of us—especially musicians—no matter what we’ve gone through over the years…we have that same sweet spirit that we had when we were young. I think that’s really incredible.”

Folsom’s joy permeates each word he earnestly pushes out, reflecting on the experience. “I felt like I was 20-something-years-old—which is a good feeling to have,” he says, laughing. “Even though I’m not 20-something-years-old! I am on the inside, I believe. Being with good people and the joy of going to places where I used to hang out, record and play—it was just really exciting and fun. And the memories just started popping in my head, you know? It was a magical mystery tour. It was amazing. Just…amazing.”

However, Folsom isn’t using the blissful experience as a good excuse to take a rest. “It made me realize I wrote some really good songs back in the day,” he says. “It’s not bragging, it’s just I’m learning to appreciate my music more now than I ever have.” Presently, he continues hustling in the painting biz, sure. Otherwise he books a lot of hours in an East Arlington studio, plucking away on his upcoming effort, tentatively called A Beautiful Mindset. It sounds as if he’s off to a promising start at starting again. “And knowing that other people appreciate my music is really lighting a fire underneath me to do more music. It’s encouraging me to bring out some of the newer things I’m writing and also just to write more….I’m open to more things than ever. So we’ll see what happens.” We’ll be waiting.

Check out the documentary below.

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