Will Oldham and David Maisel at Marin Center for the Arts

Last night was a rare treat- Will Oldham answering questions and sharing new songs he’s worked on during his 2+ month tenure in the Marin Headlands, as artist in residence at the Center for the Arts. One of the questions was about his pseudonym (Bonnie “Prince” Billy), which he revealed to be his alter-ego, necessary because no normal person can play the same songs night after night after night on tour while being a real person whose story arc is moving along a linear path. By creating an alter-ego, he becomes Bonnie, who, like a superhero, battles the same villians day in and day out. Will had taken a year off from being Bonnie, with no concerts (except last night was “cheating, only it’s a presentation, not a concert”), and is set to resume touring next month.
Being an artist in residence at the Center for the Arts gave him space to work out several “problems” (as he defines songs that are not yet finished), he found it incredibly helpful (his “fantasy working environment”) to walk out his front door, “work the glutes” as he walked up and around the hillside of the gorgeous national park to reach his studio. By the time he got to the studio, he had gotten some exercise, but more importantly, had allowed his head to think of solutions to those music problems.
Someone asked if it was easier for him to work in a rural environment versus a city. Will’s answer was that he got nothing done in a city because his whole day was consumed with justifying and thinking of reasons he would put up with being among so many people in such a dirty crowded space.
His inspiration for coming out to the Artists in Residence program was his friend Thomas Campbell, who was a prior “AIR” and who raved about the program before he went, while he was there, and after he got back.
A couple in Seattle emailed to ask him to play their wedding, so he Googled them, found their MySpace page, and created a song about them. Still not sure if he’ll make the wedding due to scheduling issues.
The evening began with a slideshow from another AIR, David Maisel.

His work explores the beauty of industrial scarring of the land, a lot of aerial work shot with a Hasselblad and amazingly the colors were not retouched. The image in this post is from the work he did in an Oregon psychiatric hospital, photographing the remains of patients left in copper cans for decades, called Library of Dust. He got there by way of a conversation at a cocktail party that left him with someone’s favorite blog sites scribbled down on a napkin. Months later, he looked up boingboing.net and one of the stories that day was about the remains being opened up to the public.