I woke up in the forest, then I was on a boat, now I’m in Virginia at a gas station in the township of Chilhowie. Like a boss…
What was your earliest memory?
When I was a little kid, my great grandma bundled my little brother and I up in our snowsuits, and the three of us trudged through a blizzard to go to a flea market. Imagine this little old white-haired grandma with two kids on some kind of vision quest through three-foot snow drifts to get nicknacks at a discount. That’s my childhood in a nutshell.
If you weren’t a musician, what other profession would you choose?
I don’t really have any other skills. If my fans cut me off, is it cool if I come sleep on your couch until I get back on my feet?
Describe a typical work day.
For the next few months, I’m on tour, so I’ll wake up in a hotel, ask where I am and what day it is, eat a Kind bar, go running, take a shower, go to soundcheck, find dinner, play the gig, and try to go to sleep again before 3:00 AM. Then I’ll wake up, get in the van, go to another city, and do it all over again, for eighty days in a row. Sometimes, in the middle of it all, I’ll get to go to an aquarium or see a state capitol.
Is there a time you wish you’d lied?
Any time you’re breaking up and you say, “I have to be honest,” you should 100% stop talking. In any situation where I’ve said that, I wish I’d lied or just left the room quietly.
What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and have a conversation with yourself at age thirteen?
Drink less, do more sit ups, practice guitar, one day girls are going to be really nice to you, and pull your damn pants up.
If you could have only one album to get you through a breakup, what would it be?
At the moment, the Dawes album Nothing Is Wrong is the thing that makes me feel most connected to everything, so I would probably want to hear that. Those guys are the truth.
What are three websites – other than your email – that you check on a daily bases?
From what or whom do you derive your greatest inspiration?
Paying attention is the thing that helps me create. I’m always watching and listening. I feel like the human experience is very general, so if you render it properly, anyone’s story can touch other people.
Name three books that have impacted your life.
Levon Helm’s This Wheel’s On Fire, which is the story of The Band (and all of Levon’s life). That’s my favorite book and the model I used to shape a lot of my earlier, more dangerous days. It was co-written with Stephen Davis who is the best rock writer on the planet.
A bunch of Kerouac’s stuff …. On The Road, The Dharma Bums, and Big Sur especially. He made me want to travel and write … and here we are. Kerouac could turn the idea of being poor, dirty, and drunk into romance. That man was a superhero.
The short story of Brokeback Mountain. A friend recommended it, and I went in thinking, “Oh this is the gay cowboy story” — but it’s really about so much more than that. It’s the story of two people who need something they can’t possibly have. Desires that are impossible to quench can make for some of the most powerful human experiences. It’s less than sixty pages … some of the most compelling literature I’ve ever consumed.
If you could relive one moment over and over again, what would it be?
I just got engaged on my birthday a few weeks ago … wouldn’t mind feeling like that every single day. Is that too cheesy? If I can’t have that, I’ll take the first 10 seconds I step on stage in any city where the fans just explode. That’s overwhelming, for sure.
How are you six degrees from Kevin Bacon?
I just spent an hour Googling all my friends to make this work. Wow, I’m lame. Here are two direct paths:
I just wrote a song with Michael Bolton for his new album. Bolton used to date Nicollette Sheridan, who did Desperate Housewives with Teri Hatcher. Teri Hatcher was in The Big Picture with Kevin Bacon. BAM!
My friend Jillian Rose Reed plays Tamara on MTV’s Awkward. Jillian was on a few episodes of Weeds with Mary-Louise Parker. Parker was in Red with John Malkovich. Malkovich was in Queens Logic with KEVIN BACON FOR THE WIN!
And a bonus…
My grandfather knew Joe Pesci way back in the day in Newark, NJ. Pesci was in JFK with … yeah … that one was quick. That’s the most fun I’ve ever had answering an interview question in my life.
What makes you feel most guilty?
I wish I could spend more time with my family. It’s hard because I’m always traveling. It makes me feel guilty that I’m constantly missing big events in the lives of the people I love.
How do you incorporate the work of other artists into your own?
I’m always reading, and the things I read pop up in the themes within my songs from time to time. Also, “One Grain Of Sand” is just “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” played backwards.
Please explain the motivation / inspiration behind Atlanta.
For the Atlanta album, I wanted to create something unique, so I decided to shrug off all the constraints that I used to put on myself. I took incredibly varied sonic elements (from pedal steel and fiddle to crazy electric guitars that sound like washing machines in space) and put them together. My approach on this album was to just do what sounded good to me … it seems like that would be easy, but it was honestly the most challenging approach I’ve ever taken. There was no road map; I allowed myself to create in a much more free space than ever before.
What is the best advice you’ve ever given to someone else?
If she cheats on her boyfriend with you, DO NOT make her your girlfriend after they break up.
List your favorite in the following categories: Comedian, Musician, Author, and Actor.
Comedian — Louis C.K.
Musician — (currently) Dawes
Author — Stephen Davis
Actor — Meryl Streep
If you had complete creative license and an unlimited budget, what would your next project be?
I’d record a new album at Abbey Road. Brian Eno, Ethan Johns, and Dr. Luke would team up and become the most balanced production team on Earth. Jonny Greenwood and John Williams would help with the arrangements. We’d have an orchestra, crazy sonic experiments, and we’d get Jimmy Page, Chris Walla, Garth Hudson, John Paul Jones, Jerry Douglas, Matt Chamberlain … all my favorite players in a crazy room just going bananas.
What do you want to know?
I want to be a better piano player. The better I get at the piano, the more intuitive harmony feels to me … the more you can do with the keyboard, the more it feels like you know about music.
What would you like your last works to be?
Hopefully something like, “Goodnight baby, I love you.”
Please explain what will happen.
In six hours I’ll get to New Jersey, go to sleep at a Courtyard Marriott, wake up early, drive to Brooklyn, visit with my friends, eat Ethiopian food for dinner, go to sleep again, wake up, go to rehearsal for a few days, then get back in the van and go on tour until December. Then, who knows?