I was surprised when Courtney Barnett told me that she doesn’t like solitude when she writes. Almost all of the songwriters I’ve interviewed have told me that they need to be alone, for the simple reason that they can’t have any distractions. But when Barnett told me why she needs to be around the action, it made sense: how can you be a narrative storyteller if you write while facing a wall?Read More
"You asked me how I was doing at the beginning of the interview and I said I was good, so can I retract that and say that I'm well?" asked Derek Miller of Sleigh Bells when I told him that I used to be an English professor. He explained that his 7th grade English teacher told his class that if anyone said, "I did good," he'd make them write "I did well" hundreds of times. On one hand, that's a horrible teaching technique. But let's look on the bright side: it was good practice for Miller, who creates all the time, everywhere, wherever he can.
My interest in interviewing Miller was piqued after reading the recent Sleigh Bells cover story in Spin magazine. He touched on his creative process a bit there, but I was taken by the intensity with which he approaches it. And when he told me that he's an enormous Henry Miller fan, I was not surprised; Derek's music and Henry's writing are both intense sensory experiences.Read More
f you happen to be in Chicago and see Smith Westerns’ Cullen Omori out at night—which isn’t very often—send the man home if you’d like to see the band’s next album be as good as the new release, Dye It Blonde, released January 18 on Fat Possum Records. By his own admission, Omori’s hometown isn’t that fun, so he tends to stay in a lot and write songs in his room. For inspiration, he listens to other bands—four different songs from four bands, to be precise—and thinks about incorporating those ideas into a song for Smith Westerns. But listening to other bands has its limitations: sometimes he’ll hear something so good from another band that what he subsequently writes just can’t compare. And that leads to writer’s block. What I found most interesting about the band’s creative process is their willingness to put song fragments aside, sometimes for months, then return to them with a new outlook. Sitting on songs, in Omori’s eyes, makes the band more confident in their songwriting.Read More