Tim Kasher of Cursive is a multidisciplinary writer: he writes songs, but he also writes screenplays and short stories. It's no surprise that the process of songwriting and the process of writing long form pieces influence each other. What does surprise me, though, is that the process of the former has made him more disciplined when it comes to the latter: Kasher has long been able to sit for long stretches and write songs, something that's more common to fiction writers. Then again, Kasher's songwriting process is somewhat unconventional: this a guy whose ideas come best in the morning after a good night's sleep. That's rare among the 120+ songwriters I've interviewed, most of whom say they work best in the late hours of the night. The phrase "in the morning after a good night's sleep" is not often associated with indie songwriters.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
The sisters Catherine and Allison Pierce make up The Pierces. With a musician for a father and a painter for a mother, they've been around some form of art all their lives, so it's no surprise that Catherine has always been creative. She writes songs, she loves to paint, she's an accomplished ballerina, and she's even a creative writer. When it comes to inspiration, she takes the active route; in her words, she's "always looking for the muse." As a result, the initial inspiration for a song doesn't come from a melody; instead, it usually comes from a random line that pops into her head. The inspiration for their song "Secrets," for example, came from a Ben Franklin quote that she saw on a t-shirt in a restaurant.Read More
Ben Kweller is a busy man. When we talked, he'd just gotten off the road; like the good husband and father that he is, Kweller was cleaning his closets when the phone rang. Since Kweller has two young kids, he's usually up early, which was why our interview was at the ungodly-for-touring-musicians hour of 10am. But this is Kweller's personality, and it's this limitless energy that makes him such a great songwriter. He finds creative inspiration in everything from hiking to taking his kids to the park to visiting art galleries. (Although, as you'll read, he writes best in Australian hotel rooms.)Read More
Salon magazine recently called Kurt Wagner of Lambchop the "greatest working American songwriter." But Wagner is not only a terrific songwriter, he's also one hell of a painter who has received considerable notice for his talents as a visual artist. In fact, Wagner was a painter before he was ever a songwriter (he has both an undergraduate degree and a graduate degree in sculpture). And these two creative endeavors constantly inform the other: not only do their processes overlap, but a visit to an art gallery might inspire Wagner to write a song. In that sense, then, this is not just an interview with songwriter. It's an interview with an artist.Read More
We Were Promised Jetpacks' second album In the Pit of the Stomachrepresented a bit of a departure for the band's songwriter, Adam Thompson. He wrote their first album These Four Walls in a rather spontaneous fashion: not paying too much attention to the lyrics, just playing the music and, in his words, sometimes "mumbling anything to get the song done." The lyrics were almost an afterthought.
But that changed with Pit, because with this second album came expectations from the music world that were absent from their debut. After all, you don't get that "it's time to make another album" feeling before you've ever done anything. So Thompson's lyrical process, and in turn its content, became more deliberate: though he still never sits down with the express idea of writing a song, on Pit Thompson tried to string together themes across the songs while spending more time on his laptop crafting the words (and drinking some good rum, I might add).Read More