Tag Archives: songwriting

Deleted Scene: Hayes Carll

Hayes Carll's devotion to the songwriter's art entails contemplating sex with Ann Coulter if necessary.

I’m a big fan of Austin singer-songwriter Hayes Carll, whose work I have written about before. I talked to him last week for Washingtonian; you can read that here. In honor of his appearance at the Birchmere tonight, I’d like to share a question I asked him when last I interviewed him, in June of this year. I wasn’t able to use what he said in the piece I wrote then, so here it is now for you enjoyment and/or edification. Take it away, Me. Continue reading

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I Wanted to Ask You: A Conversation with Matthew Sweet

Matthew Sweet, photographed by Matthew Sweet

I chatted for a minute with Matthew Sweet about the 20th-anniversary-of-Girlfriend tour he’s bringing to the Birchmere tomorrow night, for Washingtonian. It’s my first piece for them.

Waiting for Goodman, the Comedian‘s Son

When he was writing Rooms: A Rock Romance, the two-person musical that premiered at Alexandria’s MetroStage in 2008 before going on to a warmly-reviewed off-Broadway run last year, Paul Scott Goodman inserted a layer of remove from direct autobiography: He based the show’s female character, rather than her male paramour, on himself.

When he returns to MetroStage this weekend, he’ll have no such veil.

Son of a Stand-Up Comedian is the story of a moment in the life of Paul Scott Goodman as written and performed on 12-string guitar by Paul Scott Goodman, 22 or 52 years in the making, depending. The composer/lyricist began working on his solo musical — which he performs in front of a microphone, concert-style, “a rock-and-roll raconteur kind of thing” — in the middle of 1988, when his wife, director Miriam Gordon, was pregnant with Shayna, their first child. Now 21, Shayna is set to graduate from Sarah Lawrence College next month.

“That summer was one of the hottest on record in New York,” Goodman says in the Scottish brogue he’s retained since moving to Manhattan in 1984. “I was working on my first musical, trying to get it on. I was trying to be a father, trying to be a writer, trying to be a husband. It was very trying.” Continue reading

Joyless Division: The Magnetic Fields bring Realism to the grand old seat of precious freedom and democracy

The Magnetic Fields have roughly the cultural and commercial footprint of an arthouse cinema hit. But a few weeks ago, Stephin Merritt — the group’s songwriter and chief creative officer —found himself staring straight into the ruddy, swollen face of his blockbuster competition.

“I was sitting in a bar, listening to thumping disco music, trying to write songs,” says Merritt from his home in Los Angeles, 10 days before the start of his band’s tour, which opens tonight at Lisner Auditorium. (Drinking in a loud bar is his customary songwriting environment, yes.) “Suddenly there was this television show with the sound on — usually it’s off. And the music, even when they were praising it, was so terrible it was like watching a car accident from different angles.”

Confirmed, then: The Magnetic Fields Guy? Not a fan of American Idol.

What is he a fan of? Irving Berlin. Judy Collins. And of swatting down the stubbornly pervasive idea that songs are primarily the product of something more mysterious than talent and work.

“There’s this book called Songwriters on Songwriting. I think the interviewer must have been asking leading questions, because maybe two-thirds of the people in the book say they feel their songs are basically written by God,” he says. “I just literally cannot believe that they really think this. I tend to write songs while I’m tipsy-to-drunk. But I still don’t feel like they’re written by some supernatural entity.” Continue reading

Shut Up and Swing: (The Top Half of) Travis at Jammin’ Java

Fran Healy and Andy Dunlop

More than ever on the concert circuit, nostalgia is the move. With everyone from Liz Phair to Public Enemy to The Pixies (and those are just the P’s) devoting gigs and sometimes entire tours to reviving their seminal albums in sequence, lots of long-lived performers — particularly those strugging to get even their cult to embrace their new music — have glommed to the trend.

Travis are in a reflective mood, too, but they’re taking a different route. Founded in Glasgow in the early 1990s, they were one of the better U.K. trad-rock outfits to arise in Oasis’s mid-90s wake. They’re hardly commercial rivals (or contemporaries) of classic-album-revivalists Bruce Springsteen or The Pixies, but they’ve more hummable, singalong-enabled tunes to their credit than you probably remember, if you remember them at all. Continue reading

People (Don’t) Change: Nick Lowe at Wolf Trap

Nick Lowe

The great Nick Lowe was in reprise mode at the Barns of Wolf Trap last night. You can hear an NPR podcast of his September 2007 set at the Birchmere here, which is pretty much the same show he performed at the Barns, with the small exceptions I noted in my DCist review. Good show by a great songwriter, but I’d have preferred more variety, and more songs.

About that: Lowe spent way too much time apologizing, to my mind, for slipping one new song into his 20-tune, 70-minute set. One! He asked us if, when we hear a performer say he’d like to introduce some new material, “Does your heart sink? Because mine does.”

Really? I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the dilemma of the artist with the large, beloved back catalog struggling to make his audience accept his new work. Continue reading

Patterson Hood Backs Up the Truck

Patterson-Hood-by-Jason-Thrasher

My preview of Drive-By Truckers frontman Patterson Hood‘s gig with The Screwtopians at the Black Cat tonight is in today’s Examiner. It’s always a delight to talk to Patterson. We had an even longer, more freewheeling conversation two Sundays ago than when I interviewed him for DCist in May of 2008. Though the Examiner piece was focused on Murdering Oscar, his new-but-not-really “solo” album, we talked a lot about upcoming DBT projects, too. I hope I’ll be able to get that material out sometime soon.
Continue reading