How was your experience playing at Primavera Sound?
I was honored to be included in the ranks with such present tense groups such as Grizzly Bear. It makes me feel my work has a shelf life longer than a jar of Yogurt.
Is it strange to play to a predominately younger audience who may not be familiar with the kind of music that you play, or have you found that your music has resonated with crowds of all ages?
I think the present youth audience has really been subjected to wild experimentation in the song form (witness Joanna Newsom or Silverchair, for both of whom I've arranged)---they seem ready for anything I can throw at them.
It seems that the members of an audience at a festival like Primavera Sound who were not too familiar with your work would know you best as the person who crafted the string arrangements behind Joanna Newsom's Ys record. How do you feel about that record being an introduction to your work for many young listeners?
I feel such artists today have taken song writing to such imaginative heights. Likewise, my work has always attempted to take the listener outta the Bachs (pun intended).
I've heard Newsom quote Song Cycle as a big influence on her record, but I don't think that influence is heard strongly on her album.
I believe Joanna took courage from my license to kill (dogma!). Courage is contagious. That's a good thing.
I was watching an interview you did for a Dutch website, in which you said you approach listening to music with a "world beat sensibility." Are there any artists you have heard recently that have particularly interested you? Do you listen to a lot of music around the house?
I obsess on Fado. Likewise, I have a jones for Pan Am music. My world is Spanglish. Great melodies and compelling rhythms, with "real" roots that dig back into Africa---a sense of tradition in new works gives me something to chew on...and beats the navel-gazing pop-star pap I find so boring. Beautiful People with the Blues,nursing their "First World" problems seem so Narcissistic and hung up.
I go to third-world Africa and traditional Euro music to find emotional force. My favorite singer/songwriter alive today is Paolo Conte (his retro disc on Nonesuch, Reveries shows why.) Of course, as a genre, Calypso is still tops (David Rudder, from Trinidad is the main man in this form).
Has your approach to writing and producing music changed much since you first started? Your resume lists a varied group of artists, everyone from U2 to The Byrds. Has it been difficult working with such different people, or is that more of a welcomed challenge?
I like everything that speaks from the heart. I have few musical prejudices--- but Rap and Hip Hop are like Ear Candy to me....lots of snap crackle and pop, but it doesn't stick to the ribs--- there's not much to remember, without a nourishing melody.
With this idea of collaborating with other artists, are there any people who you have dreamed of working with and have never gotten around to?
Too many for this space. Like all else that's good in life.... so many attractions, so little time....
Do you have any advice for budding songwriters?
Yeah---reach high---pursue your madness---reserve the right to fail,and learn from your failures---or you'll never reach any heights. An audience will eventually gather around you, if you're true to yourself.