imhoteprisesrises asked: I'm an aspiring songwriter having trouble pairing up my raw words with music. As someone with a hand in poetry, prose and songwriting do you have any advice on bridging that gap and turning text into a workable song?
I don’t write text first; learning to ad-lib lyrics out loud while playing, then fixing them up on the page, is one place you might start. I think of song as its own discipline - not of “the words to a song” - words and music make a song, they’re inseparable, for me they come into being simultaneously and grow together. If you’re trying to force an extant text to fit music, you’re going to end up intentionally putting stresses on unstressed syllables to make them fit the rhythm, which in my Church-of-One is total heresy, so words and music have to be written at the same time, lest the heresy hunters come, with their eyes all shiny and their lariats a-crackle.
waryalbatross asked: Hi John, there's a lot of stuff I want to ask you, but I've just had a terrible week of loss and rejection in my "budding art career" and it really sucks and it seems like something you would have a piece of wisdom for. How do you cope with putting your ego and life's work on the line over and over?
I tried to answer this a bunch of times but I don’t really know! You hold onto Berryman’s line — “It is idle to reply to critics” — and understand that the actual work isn’t the thing you make, but the process that makes it, whose inherent value and dignity is well beyond any debate, because it is an expression of your self and therefore nobody can really judge it.
this is an unsatisfying answer, I know, artists have struggled with varying degrees of success over how to deal with these problems forever. the simple terrible platitudes of kindergarten are actually applicable here — the ones that tell you your work is good no matter what anyone thinks of it — but they seldom help much in the short term. in the long term, they do. people didn’t get very excited about Get Lonely when it was new. we were bummed! we felt it was our best work. we thought we’d gone somewhere special, unique in our work, its own place. over time, the people who relate to our impulse on that record have found it and connected with it, and the people who didn’t care for it have stopped thinking about it, because not many people spend a lot of time dwelling on work they didn’t care for.
but as I say this is a question people struggle with, I don’t think there’s a “here’s what you do” answer (and I reject, with thanks, any allegations that I am wise). you keep your focus on the work, I figure. when your focus wanders, you bring it back.
forcingit asked: Do you do autographs and photos and such after shows? I'm coming tonight and want to correctly place my hopes on the spectrum of artist hang-out-iness.
These days I come out and sign stuff for sure, and I enjoy it more than I can say. It is great to say hello, I get a real boost from being able to really connect. I dislike having my picture taken; I end up consenting to pictures all the time, but I feel like I’m not being too too ornery of a person if I let people know how I actually feel, which is that I don’t like being photographed. I also get that people want pictures and that it’s sometimes important to them, so I want to be accommodating about it, because it’s in my nature to want to make people happy. So I figure a decent balance is to say, I’m up for it, theoretically, if it’s really important to you, but if my comfort’s of interest, the truth is I’ve hated being photographed all my life and wish there were some way of getting people to share my feeling that JD is best when there’s no pictures.