When I first read the title of your new album, I thought "well, there's your depressing emo-americana record title of the year. Your wife Karen must have left him, the dog must've run away and he's probably lost his voice as well". Where does this come from? Is there a dark side to you, a side that doesn't really trust neither life nor love?
I've always been a sucker for a sad song. I remember "Kawliga" making me cry when I was 4 or 5 years old. Later on, as a teenager, the lonely sadness of albums like The River and Nebraska struck me deeply, let me know I wasn't alone in my little dark cloud. When it came time for me to try to connect with an audience, it seemed only natural to go for that one thing we all share at some time or another. That said, I'm a pretty happy guy most of the time.
'Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away' is not all about death and despair though, is it? Although I can't really put my finger on it, there must be some happier, more uplifting aspects to it, right?
Though the title applies pretty well to every song on the album, whether the characters are facing death, or just failure, or a loss of innocence, or fading love, the overall silver lining I tried to imply is: the limited time we have is exactly what makes life precious and worth living and worth appreciating.
When I listen to the song 'Hard To Believe', there's a line that goes "it's another New Year's eve/it's hard to believe". That took me right back to 'One Good Year' from the album Broke Down, a song which also deals with the new year as a metaphor for change and the hope of better things to come. Am I over analysing this, or does 'Hard To Believe' sort of wrap up what you started on One Good Year? Some sort of life cyclus?
New Year's Day is the only holiday I really celebrate and enjoy. I hate birthdays. Things really seem to slow down around the new year, for a few days anyway, and that puts me on a reflective path and always inspires me to get writing on the next project. So that sense of renewal and hope sometime finds its way into at least one song out of every new batch.
The same song also sees you singing "Here comes another blown up kid from over there / making the world safe for all the millionaires". Without turning this into a political interview, this sounds awfully lot like a political song. Is that something you see yourself as? A political artist?
I've tried very hard to avoid writing 'political' songs that choose a side and proselytize. But I also am very much affected by what's going on in the world and feel a need to try to describe it and describe how people cope with what is going on. The idea that songwriters shouldn't weigh in on what's happening in the world and in the culture sems ridiculous to me.
By the way - have you noticed that your voice sounds a bit different on 'Cry'? More weathered and worn, yet also more intense?
Just getting older I suppose.
You've worked with Gurf Morlix again on this record. What makes Gurf Morlix the go-to guy for all these different artists in and around Texas when they need a producer? What's his secret?
It's no secret that Gurf has never put out a bad record. He chooses his projects very carefully and devotes himself and all his talents to each one. He is a master of tone. Whether he's playing guitar or recording fiddle or drums or whatever, that instrument will sound as good as the player has ever heard it, when Gurf is at the controls. And he believes in songs. He knows what a song needs, instrumentally and atmospherically, to help it achieve its full potential. You can trust your songs to Gurf.
Your last album Unsung was a collection of songs by lesser known songwriters, which makes the new album your first album of new material since the five year old 'Wishbones'. Did you miss writing your own songs again after working on - and touring - Unsung?
I did. It always bothers me when I go too long without writing. Although I love all the songs on Unsung, there was something a little unsatisfying about singing those songs almost exclusively for the year or so after Unsung was released. I was restless to get going on my own new batch (which was kind of the idea, with Unsung). I guess they are kind of like step-children: you say you love them just as much, but it's not true . . .
I suppose, there's enough "lesser known" songwriters out there to fill another hundred albums. If you had to do another project like Unsung, who - or what - would you record?
I have a long list of songs that I love that didn't make it onto Unsung, mostly because I felt I wasn't able to come up with a version that did justice to the song. Run Jolee Run was on that list until I figured it out a few months ago.
A lot of people regard 'Wishbones' as your break through album. I would've probably said 'Broke Down', since it was around this time you began getting a lot of press in UK magazines like Uncut and Mojo. Later, Russell Crowe covered 'One Good Year'. What do you see as the main turning point in your career and why?
From my perspective, Broke Down is definitely the breakthrough album. Before Broke Down, I was losing money evey year. I thought of it as investing, but after eight years or so, it was starting to get scary. About a year after Broke Down was released in January of 2000 the game had changed, and I was finally able to start paying some bills.
Aside from financial considerations, Broke Down was the record I'd been trying to make for 10 years. I remember a sense of dread when I finished recording it: "What am I going to do now?"
Thankfully, Broke Down expanded my audience ten-fold, which no album has done since, so it will remain my breakthrough until I get a Grammy or something . . .
There's a lot of poetry in your songs but also a lot of narrative storytelling. What difference do you see between these two?
I see my music as alternating between internal and external modes. Internal songs tend to be inspired directly by events in my life and try to capture some emotional or philosphical state. I also write songs that depict characters I've come across, and they turn out to be almost like documentary songs. And some songs are a mix of both aspects.
Finally - Stephen King has written the liner notes to 'Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away'. What does it feel like having one of the world's biggest authors celebrating your work? Do you think you and Stephen King share some sort of kinship, a fellow appreciation of the darker sides of life?
It is a great thrill to be recognized by someone who is so successful at what they do. But then, I get a charge every time I talk to a fan who expresses how deeply my songs have moved them. Great music moved me and helped me through rough times in my life, so I know how powerful and healing that can be. It is the most gratifying thing in the world to hear that my music has done the same for someone else.
Slaid’s new album Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away is out now on Music Road Records. More info at www.slaid.com