The guest list for this album is quite impressive. Wasn’t it diffifcult working with all these different songwriters?
No, not at all. On the first two albums I did, I wrote all the songs myself. And this time I wanted to try something new, something I hadn’t done before. If I do the exact same thing every time, if I use the exact same formula over and over again, I get bored. And it was a really fun thing to do, surrounding myself with all these different people, travelling around meeting them and bringing them into the studio with me.
So it was basically about meeting new people?
It’s definitely a record where I’ve made an effort to collaborate with people. I had some great musicians coming in and helping me record it, I had some great producers. Eight out of the ten songs are co-writes. Ben Harper came around and played lap steel, G Love came around and played harmonica. It was great.
How did you get in touch with these people?
I knew this A&R guy who knew all these songwriters and he thought I’d click with them. I felt really lucky. I don’t think Grant Lee Phillips co-writes with too many people. It was quite an interesting thing for me to meet him and do that. We really hit it off. I got introduced to a lot of good people, but it could have gone both ways. I could have been introduced to people I didn’t click with or people who I didn’t think made the songs better. I didn’t know if it was going to turn out great or turn out to be this fuckin horrendous experience. As I said, it turned out to be great, but there’s no guarantee.
It’s quite a big chance to take, isn’t it? It could basically have fucked up the entire album if you hadn’t clicked...
What’s funny was, I didn’t know too much about any of these guys prior to meeting them. So I didn’t have pre-conceived notions about how I might not be able to play this or play that. The thing about co-writing is that you really need to be straight up and honest with everybody. Grant Lee Phillips and I sat around for an hour and messed around with music but nothing was really going anywhere. Then I told him, ‘hey Grant, I’ve got this song I’ve been playing for two years, but I just can’t figure out where to go and how to get to the chorus. I can’t figure out the bridge’. And then he sat down at the piano for five minutes and we had the chorus and bridge ready!
When you co-write, you have to let go of some of your own ideas, don’t you? Isn’t that difficult when it’s your name on the album?
When you write with somebody you really gotta open up. I didn’t want the album to sound like I wanted it to sound, but how the other songwriters thought it should sound. My influence is definitely there, but I didn’t want to co-write or produce the record with somebody and then tell them how to do it.
Who else would you like to work with?
I’d love to sit down with Bob Dylan and write a song with him, but he probably never would! But yeah, Dylan and Clapton and Tom Petty. Jeff Tweedy. I would love to work with that guy. On a certain level we’re all human beings and music is just music. You just gotta be open about it. Grant Lee was open about it and that’s what made it special, but he could just have easily been like ‘nah, I don’t know. I’ll call you’. That’s what makes this record so special to me. Everyone just opened up about the music.
You sound like a happy man on the record. Is that the message? Don’t worry – be happy?
There’s all sorts of different songs with different meanings on that album, but as a whole I think it encompasses the importance of enjoying the moment. Don’t worry about yesterday or tomorrow. I see so many people just racing through their lives. I just realised, after getting married and having a kid, that that’s all that really matters – what you’re doing right now at that moment. I don’t have any goals in life. I just have dreams. That’s the vibe of the record. Just fuckin enjoy life. That’s my philosophy of life.
Pass It Around is out now on Lost Highway