Recently, I had the pleasure of briefly interviewing Will Oldham, inarguably the finest singer-songwriter of my generation. My wife and I have been listening to him for well over a decade and one thing that makes buying his albums such a pleasure is how often they make us laugh (for example: the above photo insert from 2007’s The Letting Go…hilarious, right?). Here’s what Will had to say about balancing laughter and sadness in music and life…and why his lovely song “A King At Night” boast a random exclamation of “You Fuck!” mid-song.
There is a danger at times of taking life too lightly. Easily this is as precarious a path as taking things too seriously. It is in laughter and tears that we find release, and that we can find that our guards can be let down enough to accept fellowship. Crying and smiling feel the best in the arms or company, at least, of others. Life can be such a son of a bitch; the past, especially, is always there to nip at your heels if not rip the fucking seat out of your trou. “You fuck”, the exclamation, puts us into the present. Tear-inducing laughter exists no place but now.
I also asked him if he thought pre-release publicity distracts from the experience of listening to and accepting an album.
I believe that it is hard in the making of, and aftermath of making, a record to communicate to the great folks at a label, and the good folks beyond, what the making of the record is. With Beware, there was an understanding that trying to communicate the essence of the record was going to be tacked on to the making of the record. My feeling is that the record has too much on it, and I like to think that it is a good record if you cut the last couple of songs off; I like those songs, but the record works if it ends at “I Am Goodbye”. Then i think it’s a really good record. With Lie Down In The Light and Wonder Show of the World, there was no cluster fuck of energies upon their completion, and they came out how we had hoped. Also, most of the music that is important to me came to me with zero hoopla… just the music itself. And I understand that this is not conducive to letting folks know the music exists… but there is time. Life is for a long time, happily. Often.
My write-up on Will will appear in the 8/4/10 issue of Seattle Weekly.