Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Steve Earle & Reno

I spoke to Steve Earle the other night. It was great, not just because he provides an unstoppable torrent of ideas, opinions and insight, but also because he sounds like a man who lives a real life. He was taking time off from finishing his novel (having just completed an album of Townes Van Zandt covers) and I could hear the pleasing clatter of dishes and voices humming away in the background. The sounds of home. Anyway, here's what he had to say about death and music:

"Songs about life and death are pretty fucking ancient. Music has been doing that for a long, long time, and in fact you can deal with things that are darker in music a little easier sometimes than you can through other artistic forms. There’s a reason why murder ballads and the darker end of child ballads exist. Part of it is oral history, but it also helps to deal with that stuff and tolerate staring into the darkness a little bit. Sometimes people abuse that. For example, I just made a record of Townes Van Zandt songs, and a lot of the younger crowd who are into Townes tend to key on the darkest of his material, the nihilistic thing. And there’s plenty of it. They’re the kind of people who put the Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat at the front of their record collections, but in reality it’s impossible to listen to that album more than once without wanting to kill yourself.

"I made conscious decisions to continue to write darker material, and I’m totally comfortable with that. There are certain decisions I could have made where I would have reached a bigger audience at several points of my career, and a lot of those decisions had to do with wanting to reserve the right to write songs that people die in. It was one of the things that was surgically removed from country music, and as a result it really lost its soul: it was from a country influence that we got those early rock and roll songs where people died, like "
Leader of the Pack", but people aren’t allowed to die in country songs anymore. Come on, country music was always the one place where people were allowed to die!"

1 comment:

Alex V. Cook said...

That's a great interview. I haven;t really been into Steve Earle's albums of late, but in interview he is generally right on the money.

I just wanted to pop in and tell you how much I enjoy your blog, it's a great model of how to extend, supplement and promote your book, which I hope to read very soon.