alibi

I have wanted to write about the people who owned our old farmhouse before, but I couldn’t realize the song, which more and more seemed to want to talk about some essence of their moving on, not their past.

Reaching into the past, I am able to salvage:

The dim farmhouse, morning radio on …

Black-blue meadow stalking every step the living make  …

A whispered rush.

And that farmhouse, like an old brown photograph, suddenly fills the senses.

winterhorseredbarn

As a writer of two or three-minute songs, I’m not interested in holding on to something for very long, or walking back into the past too deep. I’m in it for the permission to be transient.

It’s like this with singing, too. The whole idea of holding a note is strange to me. Singing isn’t about that. It’s about passage, about carrying the note out of you and forward.

When I chronicle the past I’m really just connecting dots, picking the beautiful things out of it and presenting a coherent arc in a neat, little song. Of course, life in the farmhouse was much noisier than that. The past is merely an alibi for the present.

The future, well … it’s messy, but it’s better to move on to it, better to leave what’s left behind any way except a slow way, leave the fastest way you can.

As with the breakups I sing about, the staying moved on … this is the hardest thing of all.

 

love and loss

I never know when or how a song is going to end. It’s something that eludes formula and analysis.

I do know that a song has a way of bending: The end of the beginning bends to the beginning of the end.

I can’t tell you how many times I have sung loss, and how often it was love that was hiding unconsciously in my heart … how many times I thought I was at the end, only to find another beginning.

loveandloss

 

 

shameless

My songs are unapologetically intimate and unfailingly hushed. To me, quiet, sparse and unadorned just feels right. My recordings and live performances, too, a ritual of simplicity. I want you, the listener, to feel each heartbeat in the wake of every heartache. It’s what I’m about.

That margin has always been mine, and I have never let what’s happening in the mainstream shame me out of it.

I could work in the center, and make up something everyone might like, but it would wreck my art. It’s the edges that are impenetrable.

God, please don’t deprive me of the edges. It’s where I belong. I have nowhere else to go.

shameless

opening sounds

What something sounds like can’t change what it is:

The sound of a drawer opening …

The north wind on the telephone lines …

A motorbike along the lane …

Lilacs crashing through old barn walls …

The key turning in the door to an empty house …

Footsteps retreating.

Yet sound opens sound. It taps the spot that’s inside me with a lyric or melody, and the door to music opens:

The sound of clothes being emptied from the drawer by a departing lover …

The sound of the dangling farewell …

A biker who falls and in his fall hears his bones cry out …

The young sound in an old heart …

The hollow echo of the voice inside the door …

And me, walking beside you … humming like the air.