Many times We’ve been out drinking And many times We’ve shared our thoughts But did you ever, ever notice The kind of thoughts I got Well you know I have a love A love for everyone I know And you know I have a drive To live I won’t let go But can you see it’s opposition Comes a-rising up sometimes That it’s dreadful and position Comes blacking in my mind…
Whenever Hurley is in the air, there’s no place else I’d rather be, and there’s nobody whose body of work more demonstrates a goal worth pursuing in this life of work and work of life. Unfortunately my human brain forgets. Fortunately Hurley’s recordings continue to surround my consciousness, and I can revisit that perfect trajectory. Keep them alive, and go see Michael Hurley whenever you can.
Well, you’re my friend and can you see, Many times we’ve been out drinkin’, Many times we’ve shared our thoughts, But did you ever, ever notice, the kind of thoughts I got?
Well, you know I have a love, a love for everyone I know. And you know I have a drive to live, I won’t let go. But can you see this opposition comes rising up sometimes? That it’s dreadful imposition, comes blacking in my mind.
And that I see a darkness. And that I see a darkness. And that I see a darkness. Did you know how much I love you? Is a hope that somehow you, Can save me from this darkness.
Well, I hope that someday, buddy, we have peace in our lives. Together or apart, alone or with our wives. And we can stop our whoring and pull the smiles inside. And light it up forever and never go to sleep. My best unbeaten brother, this isn’t all I see.
Oh, no, I see a darkness. Oh, no, I see a darkness. Oh, no, I see a darkness. Oh, no, I see a darkness. Did you know how much I love you? Is a hope that somehow you, Can save me from this darkness.
Will Oldham née Bonnie 'Prince’ Billyhas been making music under various psuedonyms for a couple of decades. His is a voice that entrances and moves us, and his songwriting is that of a warlock. Will Oldham, we just can’t quit you…
Will was generous enough to sit down with us during Larry Crane’s live Jackpot! recording sessions at Ace Portland during MusicFest NW, to talk about the sensorial adventure of singing, about failed meditation attempts, about Robin Williams. In addition to our chat, Will performed and recorded with Larry and also spoke with MyMusicRx about music that makes him feel better.
You can download the four songs Will recorded with Larry, as well as from all other mezzanine performances including Hutch Harris of The Thermals, The Heligoats, Mount Eerie and a ton of other rad artists at Jackpot! Recordings Covers Portland.
Your performance in the mezzanine was really beautiful. It made me nostalgic for being 19.
Is that right? What happened when you were 19?
Well that’s when somebody first played Palace Music for me. And you know, there’s so much angst when you’re young and dumb.
And does the angst go away?
No, I don’t think so. I don’t know. It just made me want to quit everything and go cry in the woods for a month, you know?
Yeah. But it would be great to get paid for that.
I’m sure some people have managed it. Anyhow… So, Bonnie Prince Charlie, one of the influences behind your stage name, was also known as the Young Pretender, and was part of the tradition, if we can call it that, of “pretenders to the throne.” The semantic origins of “pretend” aren’t really about falsehood, but more about the presentation of an as-of-yet unaccepted truth. You’ve said that performing under a stage name gives people a more direct, universal, relatable persona to accept, rather than someone singing their memoirs. Johnny Cash, who covered one of your songs before he passed, seems to have had a very earnest approach to stage identity, a lack of strategy around his persona and how his audience related to his work…
Yeah. But then, Cash also, for example, wore all black and then wrote the song about why he wears black, which is absolutely a persona and is completely about doing something for the audience. So they can imagine that they’re hearing all of the songs from this accepted voice, that the audience and Cash both accept as the voice. Right? And he was born with, you know, a totally salable name.
Yeah he was. He really lucked out. He wasn’t named Sue, for instance. So in my experience as a listener of your music, and in speaking with other people who have a history with your music, it seems people feel that it’s very emotionally sonorous, and it’s, you know, speaking some truth to us. Autobiographical fictionists often get sort of interrogated about what’s “really them” in their stories, and memoirists often get taken to task about what’s “really true” as well. You’ve said that you feel you’re performing even as you write. It’s possible that personal truths get perceived as universal and vice versa when your music reaches someone’s ears. They may feel you’re finally expressing for them a truth they weren’t able to express for themselves. How does this relate to songwriting as a performance?
Well, I guess…it’s an act of witnessing. When I’m performing a song that I know really well, the advantage of knowing it really well allows you to let your guard down and be surprised as the song goes on, in terms of what’s happening in the song and what’s going to happen next or where it could potentially go. It can be new because it’s second nature. But building it in the first place in such a way that, that there are surprises built in to the structure of the song or into the lines of the song. Things that that can be said again and again and each time take on a slightly different significance, I guess.
In terms of anything maybe, it seems like nothing is true. Nothing is true that we can say with words.
Insomnia afforded me a few strained hours sleep last night and they were guided by horrific and lucid dreams. Vague and ominous feelings of dread welled up inside of me while I walked through clouds of mist or at some points more apparent horrors became visible.
I slept sweetly unpretending that the night was always ending she breathes lightly right next to me and I dreamed of her inside of me
and in my dream she sang so sweetly a melody I hope to sing so enslaved by her sweet wonder it cut my legs and fingered hunger
she sang my name and so engulfed and I cried and felt my legs fail in her arms I trembled electric and she let me and she held me
then waking she was older still and holds my love against its will in spell cast with her palms extended cursed love is never ended
cursed eyes are never closing cursed arms are never closing cursed children never rising cursed me never despising
oh I am loving always holding epic song it tells of how of she and I are living now