ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — William Elliott Whitmore pays attention to the weather patterns. That helps him tremendously in caring for his garden, which keeps getting bigger and bigger each year.
“I’m working in the garden and getting some kale, broccoli and watermelon set in,” he says during a recent phone interview. “I’m trying to get ahead of the rain and then I head out on tour. I want it all to be done before I go.”
Whitmore grew up on a farm and prefers to plant his food.
“I want to know where my food comes from,” he says. “It’s important for me to know that.”
The singer-songwriter is gearing up for his latest tour in support of his album “Radium Death.”
Whitmore is known for the sparse, haunting qualities of the mostly solo recordings he refers to as “roots-folk music,” in which his voice is often accompanied by little more than a banjo or acoustic guitar. But he began writing songs last year with some changes in mind.
“I purposefully went into it wanting to make a little bit of a departure, sonically, using an electric guitar a little bit more and adding more instrumentation, more full-band type stuff,” he says. “It’s something I’ve been wanting to try for a long time. I’ve just haven’t had the time to do it.”
Whitmore was raised on a family farm in Iowa and was inspired by the insurgent sounds of The Jesus Lizard, Bad Brains and Minutemen. He would sketch out new songs between feeding animals and tending crops. Then, he’d travel two hours to Flat Black Studios in Iowa City, Iowa, to record with his cousin and producer Luke Tweedy.
He says the process hasn’t changed for the past couple of albums.
“We get into the studio and we know where each one wants to go,” he says. “My cousin has a really good ear for music and he helps shape what I’m going for. The new music is a little different and people are enjoying it.”