But you still believe in the album format as a valid art form, right?
Yes. I understand the public saying, “You’ve given me way too many records with only one or two good songs on them and the rest is filler, and I’m not going to be fooled by that anymore. I want just the good stuff.” But I went to a lot of trouble to make this record a journey, you know? You put on a record, and you take a journey. If there’s something that wasn’t good enough or wasn’t part of the journey, then it shouldn’t be on the record.
It’s like making a movie, isn’t it? In the way you tell a story, no matter what structure you choose, that’s what really takes you inside the experience. It’s the same thing to me with a record. And what I’ve done here is construct a very specific journey. You can juggle it around however you want and it will still be good, but I’m the person who wrote and made this music, so I think I know best what the journey is. I think the sequencing can be really enjoyable if the material is good enough for the order of it to matter.
Sequencing is very important to this journey. Sometimes I’ll say to people, “You know, I’m not going to pick up a novel by John Updike and start in chapter 8, then go back to chapter 5, then head over to chapter 18. I’m gonna go in the order that it’s been presented to me.”
Especially with John Updike! [both laugh] And especially when it’s something that has really, really brilliant structuring and storytelling.
You seem comfortable with addressing your legacy, and the Band’s legacy, in “This Is Where I Get Off.” That’s a first for you in many ways.
I do finally feel comfortable enough to do that, yes. I don’t know — it could be that enough time has gone by and that there’s plenty of distance so I could talk about it without feeling uncomfortable. It feels very natural to me.
On this record, there are a lot of things that I wouldn’t have talked about in my music years ago. Now it feels like I’m saying, “Well, here’s what happened.” That’s it. I’m not telling stories out of school here, or anything like that. I’m just sharing that idea now, the “here’s what happened” approach.
I used to be a little embarrassed by people who wrote songs that went, “I got up this morning / Looked out the window / and tied my shoes,” as if to insinuate that that’s interesting at all. Like I’m going to talk about me, me, me! Some people did it very well, like John Lennon. So there were some people who could pull it off. But my natural reaction to most of that kind of writing was, “Let me tell some stories with some fictional characters.”
You write your songs like a novelist.
Yeah! There’s plenty of “you” that creeps into this stuff anyway. Not “here’s how important the things that I think are.” I was always like, “Aw, f--- off. Come on! Get over yourself!”
But you’ve finally come to a point where you’re willing to examine your life experiences. You couldn’t have done a song like “He Don’t Live Here No More” in 1976, for example.
No, I couldn’t have — and I wouldn’t have. [chuckles]
I think the Band gets discovered by every generation. The music has such a timeless quality to it. You can see the lineage in bands like My Morning Jacket.
Yes. I hear references to the Band’s music in young bands all the time — Kings of Leon, so many groups. And I think the quality that they’re recognizing is that it was done in a way to not jump on any bandwagon — no pun intended — at all. The thought was, “Listen, if I don’t get caught up in the trendiness in everything, and just make music with an ‘honesty first’ attitude, it has a better chance of living on.” And it was all coming from an original place, and a true place, and you can feel that respect for other music that has also lived on. So it’s a beautiful passing of the torch.
Copyright © 2013 Bonnier Corp. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.