The teaming up of Joseph Arthur and Peter Buck was no one’s best-laid plan
Last fall, Joseph Arthur went to Todos Santos, Mexico, to retrieve a guitar. He had left it there after playing at former R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck’s Todos Santos Music Festival, and while in town he and Buck met up to work on some songs. In a burst of creativity, the duo ended up writing and recording a whole album, which they gave the same name as their new project: Arthur Buck. “Arthur Buck” is the natural culmination of a long-running mutual admiration society between Arthur and the members of R.E.M. The veteran singer-songwriter, whose well-crafted tunes have made him an under-the-radar favorite among critics and fellow musicians for the past two decades, opened a string of European dates for R.E.M. in 2005. The next year, Michael Stipe recorded a cover of Arthur’s song “In the Sun” with Chris Martin for a Hurricane Katrina benefit EP. The first Arthur Buck tour brings the duo to the Brighton Music Hall on Wednesday, but before that Arthur talked with the Globe about meeting Buck, making the album, and what the future holds.
Q. How did you and Peter Buck first connect?
A. [In 1999] I put out an EP called “Vacancy,” and I played this residency in Seattle at the Baltic Room, which is like a tiny wine bar. [Buck] came out a couple different times, and I was just getting started, so it was kind of mind-blowing. I’ve known him for years since then: casually, then opening for R.E.M. when they did [their 2004 album] “Around the Sun,” and then Todos Santos Music Festival, [I’ve] been doing that for like five years. One year, I even stayed longer with the idea that we’d maybe try to write some songs together and we never got around to it. This time wasn’t planned at all, and we just ended up doing it.
Q. You wrote the Arthur Buck album very quickly. Why do you think you two clicked so well?
A. We just found a groove that really worked. He had really great arrangements and progressions, and I would write topline stuff over it; it was kind of effortless. It took over a month to write and record the whole album, so I wouldn’t say [it was] super quick. It wasn’t labored over too hardcore, but it was labored over enough.
Q. You’ve talked about how this album came in the aftermath of overcoming some pretty serious personal issues. Is the more optimistic outlook of the album a direct outgrowth of that?
A. Yeah, because something trauma taught me was [that] when you face traumatic events in your life, you have to dig very deeply to survive, so things like depression and self-pity you can’t afford anymore. Like for me, I got into athletics just as a survival mechanism, but then it rejuvenated my spirit in terms of my music. Once it came time to write the words down, I would drift into writing about pain, and then I thought, “That’s not really where you’re at. Why don’t you write lyrics that are reflective of what is actually going on?” So, it was sort of an epiphany in a way. As opposed to feeling like it’s cheesy to make something positive or uplifting, it feels to me like the opposite of cheesy. It feels inspiring.
Q. Did having a collaborator make processing those issues easier?
A. One hundred percent, yeah. Working with Peter on this stuff has given me a new joie de vivre.
Q. What were you listening to while making the record?
A. I was listening to a lot of Gang Starr, funnily enough, because I was distance running and boxing a lot. That’s why the beats have that kind of vibe to them. [Buck] was coming up with more of an indie rock or rock ’n’ roll-feeling thing, and then I would put more beats on it because I was like, “Let’s bring it to this sort of hip-hop, dancey vibe.” Once the album was done, a couple different people said, “I played it in my spin class,” and I was like, “That’s awesome!” It’s really cool that it isn’t obviously a certain style of music, but it hearkens to certain things. I feel like it kind of has a relationship to the Stone Roses or Primal Scream, rock ’n’ roll that has electronic, dancey elements to it.
Q. Do you think you and Buck will keep working together after this tour?
A.We’ve got almost a whole album written already, and it’s good; we weren’t just lucky [laughs]. So, I think so. He’s got a couple other bands, [like] Filthy Friends with [Sleater-Kinney’s] Corin Tucker, so I’m sure they’re going to tour and put out a record, and I’ll put out a solo record, but I can’t imagine we won’t do another record.
At Brighton Music Hall, Sept. 19 at 8 p.m. Tickets $25, www.ticketmaster.com