Your new album is out — how does it feel to have these new songs out in the world and to be sharing these songs with an audience?
It's been four, almost five years since the last record, so I can say it feels like fresh fuel in the tank as far as touring is concerned. Every record is a snapshot of where you are/were, and it feels good to have a more 'current snapshot' if you will. I've been working on these songs for a long time, and I'm glad to finally share them now.
What’s your songwriting process like, and how has that changed over the years?
Well, romantically, I'd like to think of it as a cyclical process: You tour to promote the 'old songs', meanwhile the scribblings inspired by those travels inform the 'new songs'. Sometimes its like that. I don't have songs that just 'come out' in five minutes and are done anymore. Maybe I'm more jaded about that, but I'd like to think I'm more discerning. Didn't Hemingway say "every first draft is shit" or something like that? There's truth in that first draft for sure, and maybe the trick to revisiting and editing an idea is not sullying the truth while you shape the story/song. Sometimes cowriting is good for that, to have another perspective remind you not to lose 'that line,' and maybe steer it 'this way.' Then again, sometimes cowriting is NOT good for that and you just have to write something from your angle, your words, your voice. So far I've only recorded songs I've written by myself. But as I continue to write, I'm venturing more into cowriting, though it feels like a dating game with all the correlative pitfalls – but it is something I'm doing a bit these days.
What keeps you in New Orleans?
I think I'm just not home enough to pack my shit, patch the holes and move to Nashville. I kid. I love New Orleans, and I feel dually lucky and cursed to have grown up here. Had I just happened upon New Orleans as a wandering twenty-something, I could have said 'Aha! I have found the land that suits me and I will settle here knowing full well I am not just a product of my homeland raise!' but instead, I'm left to wonder if my love for New Orleans is because I grew up there or because I just got lucky to grow up in the place I belong. No way I can just stick around. I'll have to move soon. Probably Nashville, not because I want to be 'famous' or some shit, but because its where the old songwriters that I call heroes live, and if you want to write with them or have them give you a piece of their mind, you have to head that way. I'll probably find a place in the foothills of Appalachia to grow a few rows, get a few dogs, and miss New Orleans enough to come back in my golden years and never leave again. Or maybe something completely different.
How does New Orleans influence your songwriting?
Unintentionally. I have no interest in intentionally writing about or sounding 'like New Orleans'. That said, I think any artist in this city will have this inevitable osmosis of the city into their art. This place bleeds into me in a way no other place has, but I'm from here, so it's tough to say what exactly that is. Everyone writes about 'home', but I do think 'New Orleans' is a special version of that.
I'll be on the road playing these new songs and selling this new record. Looks like NYC/Northeast is up next.
Any art that’s inspiring you lately?
Giuseppe Penone comes to mind. I saw a couple of his tree sculptures in the Tate Modern in London, and it's stuck with me ever since. He'd essentially taken a giant tree timber, picked a younger ring in the cross cut of the tree, and whittled the entire thing down to that specific year of the tree's existence to expose the younger version of the tree. It's an insane and brave idea. It conjures so many things: art unbound by pop culture, trusting the process, turning back time, subtlety, humility, pride. I think it's the most human form of artistic expression I've ever seen.
Any bits of wisdom to share for people that might be on a similar path?
'Wisdom' still seems up ahead in the distance, but I'd say finding what it is 'you have to say' has as much to do with listening as it does with trusting your voice. That and drink plenty of water.
Photography by Michael Tucker