Will Oldham chatting with Sasha Frere-Jones and Alan Licht at Bookcourt in Brooklyn

Will Oldham has a book out, edited by Alan Licht after a week of continuous interviews (“Week long drive to nowhere”), then hour-long follow up phone conversations to clarify and flesh out the book. Will dreamed of this book being the last interview he’d ever have to make, preferring to point journalists to the book if they were searching for answers about his life. Alan Licht is a musician who toured with Oldham, and also a writer, so was a natural choice for Will to pick to turn his chatter into prose. Will’s idea was along the lines of filmmaker on filmmaker, a la Wim Wenders, to have another musician chat him up about the past twenty albums. After Licht’s first draft failed Oldham’s test, he was directed to read Herzog on Herzog for more of the tone and structure that Oldham wanted.
Sasha Frere-Jones read a paragraph that explained why Oldham always selects new and different musicians to both record his albums and perform live, basically following the film tradition that you wouldn’t want to recruit the same twelve actors to produce play after play after play.
Shit talking about the friend (unnamed) who performed badly live during the Italian tour. But then onto anticipation about his concert tomorrow at the Lincoln Center, as part of the American Songbook series. Apparently they asked for a set list yesterday, and when refused, they asked for a “ballpark set” which they also did not get.
I do believe Will has a bit of a stutter, a completely controlled stutter, perhaps it is just for show.
When asked about how he got “that sound” he talks about records he got from the library, from thrift stores, secluding himself from what music was current (“Pavement, who?”), teaching himself how to read music using old Scottish traditional song books. The first recording was done in Bloomington, Indiana with friends in school there for audio tech, he would record at night and work at a daycare teaching kids how to garden.
Ignorance, stupidity, chance will all hit you. Mistakes will be made.
We are all new people every seven years, the length of time it takes to regenerate cells.
Asked about Arise Therefore, Oldham waxed about the Minnesota studio having a pool they’d crank to 100+ degrees, then whoosh open the sliding doors to fill the room with fog, watching Pink Floyd’s Live at Pompeii’s movie. “The drum machine was probably the smartest, most compassionate drummer I’ve worked with.”
Why songs about Florida? Because he knew Jimmy Buffet had figured out the secret formula.
“Harriet the Spy scared me into not keeping a journal” but then he found a collection of random writings in tin cans.
Microphones and PA systems remove your sense of how your voice sounds, you just have to get over it.
Babble, Kevin Coyne, Dagmar Krause
Gershwin tunes like Sherlock Holmes stories in that they present problems then solutions, within a three minute piece which you can listen to over and over.
Asked if he’d sell out and do some commercial work for extra dough, he says “I always try to write hit songs” but then goes more seriously into the fact that creating good solid work is more satisfying than getting paid for something you don’t like. “If my parents were dead, I’d be a happy homeless person.”
Inspiring, uplifting. And oh hai, there I am, third row, in my grey hoodie.