The Norman Music Festival descends upon downtown Norman this weekend. Over 300 bands perform over the span of the three-day event. One Oklahoma singer-songwriter, JD McPherson, grew up in Buffalo Valley. He says living in such a small town encouraged him to pursue music.
“Where I grew up, there wasn’t a lot down there. It was pretty rural. My dad was into music and I developed an affinity for music. There’s little pockets of musicians down there, but probably the best thing that happened to me was being isolated like that. All you want to do is just play guitar and listen to music and read about music,” says McPherson.
When the guitarist got his driver’s license, he drove and explored more urban parts of Oklahoma, like Tulsa. That’s when he grew more conscious of just what impact Oklahomans have had on the music industry.
“You become aware of this larger world and ongoing history of musicians,” says McPherson. “Coming all through the 1950s and even in the Jazz era: Charlie Christian’s an Oklahoma guy, and Chet Baker. And on into the rock-n-roll era, all those British rock-n-roll dudes had Tulsa guys as there back-up bands. There’s a long history that you feel like you’re dipping into.”
That history has planted deep roots in musicians from Oklahoma. McPherson says some of his favorite artists, like Big Al Downing, are natives of the state. That’s one of the reasons he is so excited to perform at the Norman Music Festival this weekend.
The sixth annual outdoor series of concerts gets each year. Co-Chairman of NMF Steven White says that Oklahoma cultivates great musicians.
“It seems like there’s always some kind of new music going on inside Norman. It seems like there’s good performers who are just regularly playing here. But underneath those, maybe the underbelly, there’s always new bands that are coming up and people get really excited about ‘em,” says White.
The co-chairman expects Norman Music Fest to attract around 60,000 people this year. He says he’s excited to see Oklahoma musicians who have succeeded on a national scale, like McPherson has, come home to play in front of a familiar audience.
This won’t be McPherson’s first time playing at the fest, but it will be the first time he headlines.
“I’m completely stoked every time we play Oklahoma because it means a lot to me,” says McPherson. “This state means a lot to me. I went to Norman Music Fest when it first started, and this was when we were just playing on weekends and things at the Deli and playing wherever we possibly could. To be playing and headlining at the Norman Music Festival is a huge honor.”
JD McPherson performs on the Sailor Jerry Stage at 8:15 Saturday evening.