“Souvenir,” the opening track from Pharis and Jason Romero’s new album Tell ‘Em You Were Gold (out on Smithsonian Folkways, June 17), is as comfortable and warm as the room in their old barn, where they’re sitting in this video. Pharis’ vocals are welcoming and expansive. Her bright, driving guitar rhythms propel the song, while Jason weaves his fluid banjo picking styles around, over, and under her dynamic strumming. In fact, the song opens with his banjo lines, which give the song a guiding musical theme.
Despite the title, “Souvenir” doesn’t wallow in nostalgia for objects associated with certain times and places in our past. Objects are dead without our memories of the people that animated them. There are ways to make those objects live for us today.
Pharis Romero explains: “We made this record over six days of playing live in an old barn. Sometimes the songs took new and surprising directions. ‘Souvenir’ was made on the last day of recording; the film crew and guest musicians had left, and it was just the two of us and the engineer together in the barn. The banjo and guitar vibe changed as soon as we sat down to play it. … A couple takes in, and the song sat where you hear it now.
“The words are about how experiences in life become souvenirs of times, places and people,” she adds. “It’s about keeping yourself centered as you carry them. In other words, the souvenirs don’t become you—you are at the core of them, and you are gold.”
Video by: Rick Magnell. Video filmed at 153 Mile General Store, located in British Columbia’s Cariboo region
“Souvenir” is a single from Pharis and Jason Romero’s album Tell ‘Em You Were Gold. It’s available HERE