When I wrote this album I knew that a lot of this would emerge. The reality is that many are stuck in the past and can’t get beyond what they perceive as what my “sonics” should be.
Songwriting is not paint by numbers. My favourite song is Tangled Up In Blue by Bob Dylan - a song of verses, amazing lyrics, but no choruses, and no massive sonic shifts. Storytelling is an art.
A Thousand Tons, for example, tells a story, and how it’s musically arranged matches it. Explosions or “big finishes” etc are not the point. The emptiness that it suddenly returns to is the point. The reality is the “typical” course of action is deferred to as “what should be done” rather than attempting to seriously examine how the song imparts a message.
I have, over the last few months, contemplated retiring. I have confronted what actors must endure with regards to type casting, and given my age and the fact that I can just make music at home for myself and my friends, it might be more fulfilling. I’m almost 50 and have zero interest in making consecutive Beautiful Midnights, etc. That was decades ago. And even those albums since, especially the last one, were written without facing any internal compulsion to change. And that’s on me. After Lights, I should have just kept going.
When I sat down and wrote Arrows it was just easy. I’d seen the dissatisfaction on the faces of concert goers on the Lights tour and knee jerked. It’s something I should never have done. The same is true of Chaotic Neutral which should have sustained the vibe of Harridan, Tiger, Cold Water, Los Alamos, etc, without the interjection of “rock songs”. Again, that’s on me.
At some point you’ve got to look at yourself and make a decision. The knee jerk reactions that occur given significant successes decades ago cannot be the present. In fact, in many cases, they should never have remained in your subconscious and turned you away from going somewhere else.
In the end, given music today, all of this is basically pointless. Artistry has no worth. For a monthly fee on a streaming service you can listen to whatever you want. Ask a plumber to work for $8.99 a month and they’d laugh at you. Reading comments complaining about ticket prices is also rather hilarious when you think that people pay over $100 to see a stadium show sitting in the nose bleeds.
It’s all relative, and to me all very perplexing and disheartening.
Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi sold for $450 million dollars in 2017. It is the most expensive piece of art ever sold. To me, Mozart is worth no less. In truth, his collected works, given the impact they’ve had, are worth vastly more. But you can download all of Don Giovanni for the price of a monthly music subscription.
What artists do is not pedestrian. Were that the case, everyone would be an artist. There is good and bad art, art is subjective. There are artists whose genius is not realized in their lifetimes, there are artists whose genius alters the discourse of entire generations during their lifetimes. There are catchy tunes that are massive hits that are laughed at a decade later. There are albums that sell next to nothing that spread like spider webs to influence thousands in the deepest recesses of their soul.
The most important aspect of art is, in truth, not how it initially impacts us, but how it challenges us intellectually and spiritually to succumb to something we are not so easily accustomed to. Satiating the masses at any given point given popular methodologies is not difficult. Challenging individuals to discover something buried within them that transverses the barrier between instant gratification and the longevity of a love affair is not the goal of an artist, but the dream of every artist. Because to accomplish the latter is to leave a legacy.
In the words of Marcel Duchamp - “What art is, in reality, is this missing link, not the links which exist. It's not what you see that is art; art is the gap.”
So mind the gap.