Jay Farrar (born December 26, 1966 in Belleville, Illinois) is an American songwriter and musician currently based in St. Louis, Missouri. A veteran of two critically acclaimed music groups, Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt, he began his solo music career in 2001. Beyond his established talents as a songwriter, he is a guitarist, harmonicist, and a vocalist.
His musical style ranges from sparse, unaccompanied folk music to full rock and roll band arrangements comparable to Neil Young or Dinosaur Jr.. His solo recordings also often include sound experiments, reminiscent of psychedelia, with a distinctly Eastern bent. One of the hallmarks of his sound is the use of alternate tunings on the guitar. His love for Woody Guthrie inspired a custom guitar made by Creston Lea of Vermont. The guitar was made from artifacts Jay gathered from the site of Guthrie's childhood home. In 2012 the guitar was featured in a painting by modern artist Karl Haglund.
After the dissolution of Uncle Tupelo in 1994, Farrar formed Son Volt, whose original lineup released three albums in the late 1990s, before undergoing a hiatus in 1999. In 2005, the band re-formed with a different lineup and has since (as of May 2009) released four additional albums.
In 1999, Farrar was invited to participate in the tribute album for Moby Grape co-founder Skip Spence, who was terminally ill with cancer. The album, More Oar: A Tribute to the Skip Spence Album (Birdman, 1999), was an album of cover versions of the songs on Spence's only solo album, Oar (Columbia, 1999).
In 1995, Farrar collaborated with Townes Van Zandt on the song "Rex's Blues", which appeared on the AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Bothered produced by the Red Hot Organization.
As a solo artist, Farrar has released two full length albums, two EPs, one film score, and various live recordings. His full length albums are Sebastopol (2001) and Terroir Blues (2003), the first released on the independent record label Artemis Records and the second released on his own label, Transmit Sound.
An EP of songs from the Sebastopol sessions, entitled ThirdShiftGrottoSlack was released in 2002. His score for the independent film The Slaughter Rule (2002, directors Alex and Andrew Smith) was released in 2003 on the independent record label Bloodshot Records. Farrar formed his own independent record label in 2003, Transmit Sound (formerly called "Act/Resist Records").
In 2004, Farrar released a six song live acoustic EP entitled Live EP. Also 2004 marked the release of the live CD/DVD Stone, Steel & Bright Lights.
Farrar worked closely with keyboardist Steven Drozd of The Flaming Lips during the recording of Sebastopol. Eric Heywood, Mark Spencer from the Blood Oranges, and the rock group Canyon have often accompanied Farrar in his solo recordings and performances. Spencer is now a full-time member of Son Volt.
In 2006, Farrar announced the formation of a new band, Gob Iron, with Varnaline's Anders Parker. The songs which would make up their debut album were recorded in autumn 2004, while Farrar was in the process of recording a new Son Volt album.
Farrar collaborated with Ben Gibbard (of the indie rock band Death Cab for Cutie) to create all of the music for the soundtrack for the 2009 documentary film One Fast Move or I'm Gone, about Jack Kerouac's time spent at Big Sur. The soundtrack was released on October 20, 2009.