Son Little is big talent. Since the release of his 2015 debut EP, “Things I Forgot,” the Philadelphia-based musician has caught the attention of industry peers, critics and fans who deeply resonate with his well-crafted collection of tunes dripping with authenticity and unadulterated soul. Melding a soundscape with bluesy vintage edge, brimming with indie sentiments, his tracks are both timeless and inexplicably current. Regardless of the lyrical content, you feel Little’s plight in his raspy vocals, heavy with emotion.
Born Aaron Earl Livingston, he’s collaborated with The Roots, RJD2 and has even showed off his production skills, receiving a 2016 Grammy award for his work shaping Mavis Staples’ song “See That My Grave Is Clean.” “Aloha,” Little’s latest dozen-song offering, was written and recorded in just eight days, but the quick turnaround wasn’t something Little initially planned on. After significant work creating detailed demos for new songs, his hard drive crashed — taking with it all the new material. This unexpected roadblock, which for Little felt like a ‘”nightmare” at the time, actually provided a clean slate for new tunes to bloom.
At times, Little channels Sam Cooke. At others, he delivers a retro-pop feel similar to the one perfected by The Jackson 5. Playing nearly every instrument on the album, he captivates with understated ballads and full-on rock jams. He has shared stages with Leon Bridges, Mumford & Sons and played moving sets at many festivals from Tennessee’s Bonnaroo to Rhode Island’s legendary Newport Folk. On Feb. 28, he will perform at The Fox Theatre and the following day he will play at Washington’s Sports Bar & Grill in Fort Collins. We caught up with the artist ahead of his Colorado tour dates to discuss his latest work, favorite filmmakers and his unlikely stage name that was born out of a random misspelling.
Daily Camera: Really digging the tunes on ‘aloha.’ I read that it was written in just eight days. That’s quite an achievement. Would you say that was a rather stressful process with the time constraints? Or was it somewhat freeing?
Son Little: There were definitely some stressful moments, but I’m starting to understand that sometimes the stresses and pressure of getting stuff done is a valid part of the process. It definitely helps me focus on what’s working and just follow where that leads, instead of spending a lot of time fussing over something that maybe just isn’t ready. Coming up with ideas has never been hard for me, so running out of time kind of helped me lean in and finish stuff.
DC: What were some of the artists or albums that had a significant impact on you in your youth? Ones you couldn’t get enough of?
SL: “What’s Going On?” Marvin Gaye, everything Stevie Wonder did in the ‘70s, all things Jimi Hendrix. Nirvana, A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, Radiohead. I could go on forever but those are big ones.
DC: In addition to being a beautiful song, the video for “Suffer” is exceptionally moving. Where was it shot? What are some of your favorite films? Any current cinematic gems that lingered with you?
SL: It is. The video was conceived and directed by Daria Geller, who also directed the video for my song “The Middle.” It was shot in Kazakhstan, and I was very bummed I couldn’t be there. There’s some incredible shots in there. I have an endless list of films I want to see, but I don’t always have much time to watch them. I’m a big fan of PT Anderson, Coen Brothers — I love just about everything from both of them. But my favorite movie of all time is probably “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
DC: What inspired you to want to take on the moniker Son Little? Is there a story behind this?
SL: Well, a former co-worker of mine misheard my last name ‘Livingston’. She printed my paycheck as Aaron Littlesun, so when I went to cash the check they wouldn’t let me. It was annoying at the time but also pretty funny and the name kind of stuck. I made some CDs of my music and passed them around with “Littlesun” on the cover. Later when I was starting this new project, I wanted something new but also something that felt connected to my past and how I started in music, so I decided to just flip it, Son Little.
DC: Lastly, what are some future goals you hope to reach in 2020, either as an artist or just as a person?
SL: My goal is just to continue to grow as a person and artist and to make twice as much music as I did last year.
If you go
What: Son Little with Dragondeer Trio
When: 8:30 p.m., Feb. 28
Where: Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder
More info: foxtheatre.com