Christopher Lockett can often be found schlepping weighty camera gear through remote locations for cable shows or documentaries such as 2012’s “The Typewriter” and last year’s Cambodian landmine-removal chronicle “Until They’re Gone” (both of which he directed). He’s currently working on the second season of “Celebrity Big Brother,” which is substantially less exotic than tramping around a South African nature preserve for “Naked and Afraid XL.” But it enables the Los Feliz resident to sleep in his own bed after a seven-mile commute and devote evenings to his guitar and music.
“I don’t think I’d be happy just shooting all the time and not playing music, or vice versa,” says Lockett, who’s celebrating his third album at Matt Denny’s Tuesday. “I’ve shot on five continents now and I’ve always picked up weird instruments; I played about 10 on my second album [2012’s ‘Road Songs for the Restless’].
“In Africa I’ll sit in with people on djembe. I’ll take jaw harps and harmonicas with me and give them away or trade them for things. I’ll ask local people, ‘Hey, this is what I listen to in the States; what sounds like this around here? What’s folk music? What’s your rock ‘n’ roll?’ I usually find it.”
He plays jaw harp on “Thunderjaw” and kalimba on “Phalaborwa,” which reminds him of sounds in South Africa’s Limpopo Province. Both instrumentals feature on “Between the Dark and the Light,” the album he made over four days during an intense July heatwave at producer Fernando Perdomo’s Reseda studio.
Limned with natural imagery, tracks like “Ashes,” the romantic “Jacarandas” and “Old December” (“Time is only really good/ To whiskey, hurt and wine”) showcase Lockett’s literary sensibility. “Ask the Dust” takes its title from John Fante’s 1939 novel, while “There is a Darkness” borrows lines from French Symbolist leader Paul Verlaine’s “Tears Fall in My Heart”: “Tears fall in my heart/ like rain falls on the town.”
“Pretty damned Americana-sounding lines for a 19th-century French poet, no?” says Lockett.
“Guys like me, built like I’m at your house to move furniture, don’t normally get tagged as readers of poetry,” he notes with good humor. (Though eagle-eyed viewers of his on-hiatus “Live at Lockett’s” video series may recall poetry on the well-stocked bookshelves backdropping performances by LA artists such as Sunny War and Brian Whelan.) “I love James Dickey. Got drunk once in college, rang him and had a nice chat. He didn’t want to talk about poetry at all; he wanted to talk about guitar and motorcycles instead.”
That was before the Virginia native upped sticks to LA in 2000 and earned his master’s in cinematography at American Film Institute. Performing took a backseat until his 2009 self-titled debut album.
“When I turned 40, I didn’t have an album out,” he observes with some pride. “I turned 50 in April and now I’ve got three out.”
Christopher Lockett returns to J.C. Hyke’s Songwriter Serenade at Matt Denny’s, 145 E. Huntington Drive, Arcadia, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15; free admission, though tips to artists are encouraged. Also performing: Alias Means, 2 Ton Bridge. Info: (626) 462-0250. christopherlockett.com, jchyke.com/songwriter-serenade.html