Remembering Dan Fogelberg
Written by tessatowne on August 13, 2014
On the occasion of what would have been his 63rd birthday, save for cruel fate, I dug out the transcript of an interview I did with Dan Fogelberg in June, 2000, just before the start of his fall tour that year. Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, & Some Blues had just been released at the time, and the Baltimore performance he gave at the old Morris Mechanic Theater was a memory I’ll always treasure.
Dan and I met twice, but this interview was conducted on the phone. He was a good guy, and to this day one of my favorite songwriters of all time. Mostly, though, I loved his spirit, his sense of humor, his commitment to peace, and his devotion to his wife, Jean.
I’ve met and interviewed too many big name musicians to count. Big deal, they’re just people. Most are jerks, others merely meh. A few are super good people: Dan was one of those, Total sweetie, teasing, wacky, opinionated, and very nice. Often I find “celebrity” interviews a chore or a disappointment — this was a complete pleasure and privilege. And the times we were face to face were the same. I miss him terribly, still. The world is NOT better off. But thank the goddess we had him for as long as we did.
Men: Get checked for prostate cancer. Everybody else, give to the Prostate Cancer Foundation. That is all.
ND: Hi Dan. How’re you doin’?
ND: How’s Colorado?
DF: Oh, lovely.
ND: It’s a beautiful place; only been there once, but I hope to get back there again soon.
DF: Yeah, it’s great.
ND: I’m not going to waste any of your time, so I’ll dive right in.
ND: I listened to the album – finally got it last week. Gosh, it’s wonderful.
DF: Oh, thank you!
ND: It really is. I have to ask you something, though, that just occurred to me. When I looked at [the title] Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, and Some Blues… It makes people think of weddings. You’re not tripping down the aisle again, are you?
DF: Oh, no.
DF: That’s just a pun I’ve used in my show, my solo show, for years to say this is what you’re going to hear tonight. We’re going to do some pieces by other people, some old stuff, usually introduce a brand-new song or two, and then I play a blues set. This record, as it developed, has turned into the same sort of thing, you know. I have some very old material that we’ve done, there’s a brand-new song, and then I put a couple blues pieces on there. So it seemed like a very good place to use that as a title.
ND: Sounds good. How come a live LP now? A lot of people consider Greetings from the West as a recording of the definitive Dan Fogelberg concert experience.
DF: We showed them, didn’t we? (We laugh.) I actually think this is a better album, to be honest with you. I think the life in this and the realness of this is, in some ways, superior to Greetings from the West. If you want a real serious concert experiences, great — Greetings from the West. But that was recorded on 24-track digital, it was overdubbed, it was fixed up… You know, all the stuff that people do to live recordings. When I listened to Greetings after I finished the new one, I said, “God, this doesn’t have anywhere near the soul of the new record.” So I prefer it – I think the new one is more fun and has more energy on it.
ND: I have to tell you, I agree with you.
DF: Yeah. When I listen to Greetings, it sounds almost sterile now.
ND: Yeah, actually that was my feeling, ’cause when I pulled it out this weekend to compare it, in a sense, it did [sound less vibrant]. I’ve seen you in concert many, many, many times.
ND: So I really identified with what was on both records, but the newest one really does sound very, very real. I understand you recorded everything right off the board and into DAT [Digital Audio Tape], right?
DF: There were no studio tricks at all. It’s exactly as it was recorded. This was a complete accident. You asked, “Why a live record now?” Well, I didn’t plan on releasing a live record now, to be honest with you. I was working on my Christmas recording last year, The First Christmas Morning.
ND: Oh yeah!
DF: I was sequencing. I was about done with it and trying different sequences, one song after another to see how it flows and experimenting with that stuff, and transferring over to DAT tapes, right? And I was going over old show tapes – I’ve got a zillion of these, and I figure if I’m not going to use these, I might as well recycle them. I actually quit listening to the Christmas record; I’d finished what I was doing but forgot to turn [the tape machine] off, and here comes this great version of “Songbird” and “Tucson, Arizona.” And I said, “What is this?” Literally, I had almost erased it.
ND: Oh wow!
DF: ‘Cause I was recording over these tapes and I said, “What is this about?” I listened to it, and it sounded fabulous.
ND: Is this the version that’s on the album now?
ND: Gosh, I’d have to come over there and slap you if…
DF: Yeah, it changed the whole process, ’cause I didn’t think these live DAT tapes would ever be usable, and I never even listened to them. I recorded every night [of concert tours], they get shipped home to the ranch, you put ’em in the studio and forget about it. I just thought they were… I had a lot of DAT tapes to work with (laughs), just to record over. It never occurred to me that they would have this quality of sound on them or that the performances would be as good. So that started the whole thing rolling. Like: “Wow – if that’s good, what about this?” Or maybe: “That one tour, we did ‘Statesboro Blues.’ I wonder if I’ve got a good one of that.” I started going through all these DAT tapes and found these really good performances of everything. And, at the same time, I said I don’t want to release the stuff that I’ve already released.
DF: If I’m gonna do another live album, I don’t want to overlap, so that started the thinking, well then, you have got all this cool stuff that you guys did just for fun. It doesn’t have to be real serious.You’ve already done Greetings, they’ve already got all the hits and all that stuff. So we started looking around: What did we do on those tours that people don’t have? And that’s how I decided to compile it. And I found “The Innocent Age.” I found “Looking for a Lady.” I found the blues pieces. I found “She Don’t Look Back” and “Here Comes the Sun.” So that’s how I decided what to use, basically, what I hadn’t used before. The only one that is overlapped is “Make Love Stay,” and that was acoustic-solo me on Greetings from the West, and this is the regular band.
ND: Right, right.
DF: So I said, “That one’s pretty cool.” “Hard to Say” wasn’t on Greetings from the West.
ND: No, it wasn’t.
DF: So, I said, “Great.” Because my people were saying, “Well, this is wonderful, but we’ve got to have some hits on here, too.” At the last minute. You know how managers are.
DF: So I said I’d go look, and I found a really good version of “Hard to Say.”
DF: And “She Don’t Look Back,” which I didn’t have on the original mastering. Sometimes those management types have some good ideas.
ND: Every now and then they earn their 10 or 20 percent.
DF: Yeah, I was, like, “Oh, man, I’m about done with this! (We laugh.) All right, I’ll go spend another bloody weekend looking through tapes.” They were right! And I ended up finding two really good versions that made it a better CD.
ND: Yeah, well, it is a damn good CD, and the music, as Jesse Colin Young put it, carries you away. Really does.
DF: That’s a great track [“Songbird”]. That’s the track that started the whole thing going. And that was an accident!
ND: A happy accident.
DF: A very happy accident! ‘Cause I love this thing.
ND: It’s a marvelous record. You know what got me? I was listening to it – and I tend to listen very carefully, ’cause I’m one of those types – and it’s amazing how little crowd noise you pick up. I mean, they’re there… Is it that your audiences tend to be more reverent and mature? Not in terms of age, but in terms of comportment – they’re there to seriously listen.
DF: I wish that were the case.
ND: Have you run into problems with that?
ND: Oh, good.
DF: That usually is the case at solo acoustic shows. But at the band things… Well, maybe I shouldn’t give this secret away… (Laughs.)
ND: Yes, you should. Share!
DF: There is no audience on this.
DF: We didn’t mic the audience. We didn’t plan to record this for release. This was for me to listen to – to check out the part of the band and all. So we didn’t have any audience mics up.
ND: I understand, ’cause it went straight into the [sound] board.
DF: No crowd noise.
ND: Well, you do catch some of it, but not very much.
DF: A little bit. That’s just coming back through the stage mics, probably. So… we actually had to fly the applause in! (We laugh.)
ND: That’s great!
DF: ‘Cause there was nothing. We finished these great, hot tracks and then there was no audience. When you record a live album, you have to put mics in the audience [to her them]. We didn’t do that, ’cause these were not-for-release recordings. So basically we had to go through in a day, and I had a bunch of audience stuff from other shows, from solo acoustic shows, and I just took pieces of that – a lot of them – and then matched them as best we could with each track. So, basically, these were audiences (laughs) from solo acoustic shows!
ND: And you did a darn good job!
DF: Yeah, it’s OK. I don’t hear many seams; digital editing is quite remarkable. I didn’t do as bad a job… The guy I did this with, Robert Vosgien from Capitol Mastering, had done Phil Collins’ double-live album. He wanted a French audience, and he spent weeks trying to cut this together. [Dan laughs throughout.] It was one of the worst nightmares [for Bob]. We didn’t have to do that. We didn’t have to say that we’re trying to make this feel like an organic performance. We were just taking a song from here, a song from there, and you can fade the audience out – it doesn’t matter. But Phil had to put it together, like, the whole reaction. If Phil said something funny…
ND: Let’s find some laughter!
DF: Yeah, and he wanted the audience to come from Paris for some reason. Some people get a lot nutsier in this business than I get. [We both chuckle. Note: Collins’ 1999 live LP was recorded in Paris, France.]
ND: Well, yeah.
DF: So when I told Bob I wanted to do this live album, but we didn’t have an audience, he was, like, “Oh no! Goddamn!” [We are laughing hysterically now.]
ND: That’s wonderful! So… you’ve got this wonderful new release out there… At the same time, I understand you’re writing new stuff for a studio album.
DF: (impishly) Well, I’m threatening to…
ND: Meaning, you haven’t done so yet?
DF: No, I have about 25 things sitting around.
ND: Oh, cool!
DF: I’ve been trying to get a studio album for about 10 years, since River of Souls. I did the thing with Weisberg [No Resemblance Whatsoever], the box set [Portrait], the Christmas record, this one… I haven’t really stopped recording since ’94. But the nice things about being an independent artist now is that I don’t really have anybody breathing down my neck saying, “You’ve got to make a commercial record; you’ve got to make a studio record.” I’ve been free to do… and the things have comes on their own. And that’s nice, ’cause I’m following my heart and doing what I feel is fun and interesting. Whether it’s going to be as commercial as The Innocent Age or something… well, I don’t care. I’m just making music as it comes, as it happens. Like this one: I had no clue that in the year 2000 I would be making another live album. I didn’t even know until the end of 1999, almost. [Laughs.} That’s how I’m doing it now. I’ve got my own record company and I can let things happen on their own. That’s how the Christmas record happened. I didn’t plan to make a Christmas record.
ND: How wonderful that you did!
DF: And then the box set, it just took control of my life. When you do things for those reasons — you know, you’re doing it purely for musical reasons – you make better records, I think.
DF: It’s not like, “Oh, God, I’ve gotta come up with another hit,” “I’ve gotta do this for Sony,” or whatever. I just don’t have to do that anymore.
ND: With that in mind, where do you want the next studio album to go, musically speaking?
DF: Well, I don’t know yet. The times that I have are very acoustic and romantic. I’ve been threatening to make an acoustic record for years.
ND: Yes, you have.
DF: I haven’t done anything [acoustic] in 20 years. There have been bits and pieces, like on The Wild Places or River of Souls, but for the most part, I’ve really been jumping all over the map.
ND: Let’s see: Bluegrass…
ND: on High Country Snows.
DF: Pretty Hard Rock…
ND: Blues, which you’ve always done in concert, but now we have it on wax, thankyouverymuch.
ND: And of course the Christmas record is playing in medieval territory…
ND: When can we expect a classical guitar album?
DF: Oh boy, I don’t know. That might be next. Who knows? At this point, I’m gonna take a break. I just did two records in less than two years, and the box set before that, which was a big undertaking.
ND: Oh, it must have been massive.
DF: So I’m probably going to just relax and see whether I want to work in the studio or not. So I want to wait. I mean, if I go down there [to his studio] and something starts rolling, and I get a fire… I just can’t face, “OK, I’m going to start on February 1st to make an album,” like I used to. I just can’t do that anymore.
ND: Hey, you don’t have to.
DF: No, I don’t have to. And I’m also too damn old for that. I don’t want to work that hard.
ND: I heard that! [We laugh.] What do you think about what it takes to make a “hit” record these days? That’s a “hit” record as opposed to a “good” record.
DF: I wouldn’t know.
ND: You’ve always made music for yourself, essentially, and for those who can enjoy the trip and be happy with it.
DF: Yeah, yeah.
ND: It’s a completely different thing now: The industry was scary in the ’70s and ’80s, but nothing like it is now.
DF: I don’t even feel like I’m associated with it.
ND: So hit records aren’t really important to you anymore.
DF: Oh, no. I could write the best song of my life, make the best record of my life, and it would still get ignored. I can’t compete with the likes of N’Sync and Christina Aguilera and the teenybopper shit that people are selling right now. There’s just no way. There’s no room for it. That’s fine. That’s what that business is about. But the nice thing is that our audience and our generation are still there. They’re still looking for music. And they still come – not in the numbers of 20 years ago, but if you’re doing the independent thing, you can still make a great living doing this. I’m actually making better profits off of these records that I did with Sony, ’cause they take so much damn money.
ND: Well, you know…
DF: Yeah! Did you see Courtney Love’s rant on the Internet?
ND: Sure did.
DF: This girl’s got a brain.
ND: She’s really, really smart. She knows that the industry’s essentially bullshit and you manipulate it from your end as best as you can to achieve as much success as you want.
DF: Yeah, I do know. She was telling a lot of truth in there, which these guys at the top of the corporate ladder don’t want people to know. That’s why I left, essentially. I still had records booked to make for Sony, and I just couldn’t stay there anymore. It was like, “This is bullshit.” These guys are not doing anything for you, and they’re taking all the money!” [We laugh.]
ND: Yep, you got it.
DF: Hello? It only took me 20 years to figure it out. Duh. [More laughter.]
ND: How long has it been since you left Sony?
DF: I left in ’94.
DF: About six years.
ND: I don’t look at the labels. If your name’s on it, I buy it.
DF: That’s a lovely thing to hear! Morning Sky is my company, and it’s distributed by Chicago Records, which is, basically, the band Chicago’s label.
ND: That’s right – I remember that, sure.
DF: We’re all under the same management company. Howard Kaufman set up this really good distribution company. Jimmy Buffett just came in too. He left Margaritaville alone and made Mailboat, and now he’s being distributed by Chicago. So we’re setting up a pretty good company here.
ND: Sounds like a great roster to start off with.
DF: Yeah. Michael McDonald’s in there; Beth Nielson Chapman’s been talking to me about coming on board. It’s because we have an audience. You couldn’t do this if you were trying to break a new act. Although people are doing it, I suppose.
ND: A few.
DF: Yeah. The fact is, why are we dependent on these [major-label record] companies? We don’t need them. Audiences exist. All we have to do is market to our own audiences.
ND: That’s right.
DF: We can let these folks know these things are out there and we can continue to have the freedom we always wanted and still be commercially viable.
ND: Isn’t that cool?
DF: Yeah. In a lot of ways, the Internet has made that possible.
ND: I was going to ask you about the Internet. It’s a wonderful way to talk to your fans, your market… and I know that your fans are particularly ravenous in terms of finding information, finding out what’s up with you, etc. Which is really cool. Do you get to speak to many of them?
DF: No, I stay out of it. I’m a pretty private guy. I keep an eye on it, but I’m not involved. I do not have my own Web site yet; we’re still thinking about it. But there are fan sites that are very, very good. The chat stuff is gossip and bullshit, most of it.
ND: Oh, yeah, of course.
DF: That part of the Internet I do not like, because people can say anything about anybody and be utterly irresponsible.
ND: They can hide, for one thing.
DF: They can be completely anonymous. That’s the downside of it. The upside is the marketing of music: the Amazon.coms, the CDNows, the places where people can go. Our generation doesn’t go to brick and mortar much anymore. They don’t have the time. They’ve got kids to raise. They’ve got jobs to do. But you get on the ‘Net in the middle of the night and think, I wanna get a record. I do it myself.
DF: I live in the middle of nowhere. This has been fabulous for us, ’cause if I’m looking for a really obscure piece of classical music by a certain conductor from a certain time on a certain label… they’ve got everything. You can go research it, find it, and have it at your door in two days. That’s pretty amazing!
ND: It’s changed my life, that’s for sure.
DF: We’re also seeing that as far as marketing our music that we don’t have to be as dependent… We don’t have the size of distribution as Sony Records to get a guy in every town or to get into every store in town. We just can’t do this, so we have to be creative. We try to find some big markets, some big chains that we can work with, and then the Internet. It’s a pretty good idea.
ND: I know you’ve done a number of those big chat interview-type things, like on Microsoft Network.
DF: I did one last night.
ND: How did that go?
DF: Great; it was really fun.
ND: Yeah. You make fun of people.
DF: I make fun of people?
ND: Not negatively, you have fun with them.
DF: Oh yeah, I have great fun with them. One thing people don’t get from my records is my sense of humor.
ND: That’s the truth.
DF: I have a wacky sense of humor, so I get to have a great time doing those chats because you have to answer succinctly and be entertaining. That’s what I try to do. One of my great heroes is Groucho Marx. People think I’m a smartass, well, so was he.
ND: He’s the best kind of smartass you can find. Excellent. Excellent.
DF: I really do enjoy those online chats.
ND: That’s good! Do you do them often?
DF: When a new record comes out, I do America Online and MSN and whatever else, Prodigy, whatever. It all depends on who calls up and says, “Do you want to do one?”
ND: Cool. You have a big birthday coming up next year.
DF: Yeah, and a small one in a couple weeks. (He chuckles.)
ND: No, no, each one is big; the ones with zeroes, for whatever reason, stand out as milestones, as a way to look back, ahead, whatever. Being that you are in a most auspicious spot and you look at the business and at your own career, what would you see as the greatest moment of your career?
DF: Wow. That’s a pretty big question…. The one I refer to most often, the one of which I’m most proud, would be Carnegie Hall, which I did solo in 1979, and my father was there and my mother was there. They’re from Illinois. It was a one-man show at Carnegie Hall. That’s one of the most prestigious venues in the history of American music. That is where I felt, “OK, I’m legit. This is the big time here.” It didn’t feel like I was just part of the pop-music crowd, the latest pop phenomenon. It felt really legitimate to be a one-man performing artist and put on a solo show at Carnegie Hall.
ND: God, that must have been cool.
DF: That was. That was the quintessence for me.
ND: What [moment] would you say is the worst?
DF: The worst?
DF: Oh, God… Food poisoning in Arlington, Texas, in 1970-something.
ND: That would do it.
DF: I actually had to stop on stage and be taken to the hospital. That was pretty awful.
ND: Oh my gosh!
DF: These things happen.
ND: Yeah, they do. I’m thinking back to my bout [with food poisoning]. Thanks for bringing that up. [We laugh.]
DF: That stands out as being really bad.
ND: Oh, it would. Looking at the world, I know that you are very concerned with the planet and its condition, with peace and justice, and now we’ve got Concordes bursting into flames and George W. Bush…
DF: Can he burst into flames? [Howls of laughter.]
ND: (wiping away tears) I’m with you. And he can take Dick Cheney with him.
DF: Things happen in threes, I think…That’s the way.
ND: How do you feel looking at the world these days?
DF: Not very optimistic. In a lot of ways… No, I’m not gonna go there; that’s too pessimistic. I think that until we begin to address the real problem of overpopulation, we’re not going to get anywhere. The planet can only support so much of any species, and ours is pretty seriously overpopulated. And I think that until that problem is addressed meaningfully around the planet, the other problems are not going to go away, because it’s surely the overpopulation that is overburdening our system. But the planet will take care of it if we don’t, which is not a pretty scenario.
ND: Not a pretty scenario at all.
DF: That’s the law of nature. I’ve seen it: I’ve lived in the wilderness a long time, in the mountains of Colorado. I saw it 20 years ago almost now – the complete infestation of these pinworm caterpillars that came onto my property and just deforested hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of acres all the way to New Mexico over five years. I had just bought my ranch and I was just heartbroken standing there watching it. There was not a leaf on a tree for five years. And they said that after five years there would be such an impact – all those trees would die. I thought I was going into the logging business at this point.
ND: Oh my…
DF: I did everything I could do – spiritually, politically, financially (he laughs) to stop it. And eventually I ran into this old lady who lived here for 60 years in this space before I moved in. And I’d stop down when I’d ride my bike and have tea with her before she passed away. She was a very wise old woman. I was asking her what we should do. And she said, “You should feel very privileged, because you’re seeing something that most humans will never experience.” And I said, “What? The death of this?” And she said, “No. This happened before. This is twice I’ve seen it in my life cycle.” I said, “Really?” And she said, “Fifty years ago, this same thing happened.” I asked, “Well, what stopped it?” And she said, “Just watch and wait.” Sure enough, when [the caterpillars’ damage] reached its peak, the species was so overpopulated that its immune system had just run down to nothing the year it was at its absolute worst, they went into their cocoons and never came out again. A tiny little virus got in there and took care of the overpopulation process. Nature has her ways. We’re just a part of that chain and system.’
ND: (ghostly voice) We are not in control.
DF: No, we aren’t. Nature has her laws. If we defy them or think we can defy them, we’re through, we’re idiots. We’ve been defying them for a whole century.
ND: Or trying to…
DF: No, we have been.
ND: It’s kind of like the Tower of Babel thing. We keep reaching higher and higher trying to, I think, be God or the Creator or whomever.
DF: Or supplant [God]… I don’t know about being…
ND: Supplant. Yeah, that’s a better word.
DF: We’re trying to be something that is superior in some way, and that’s just silly.
ND: Human beings walk around with this arrogance. Being a songwriter, of course, means subsuming that to an extent. And that reminds me of an interview with you from 1981 [INTERCHORDS]. This was after The Innocent Age came out. Basically it was looking back at all the things that had happened prior to that. I recall the interviewer asking you about the song “Nether Lands” and asking where it came from. You did not know, you said. Essentially, you opened up and it was like being a vessel that brought forth this very profound passage: “Once in a vision I came on some woods / And stood at a fork in the road…” It’s now about 20 years after that – do you have any idea yet?
DF: No… I think I remember better to make conscious choices now that I’m older. I think I was more intuitive when I was younger. I was more open to letting that stuff happen. Now, I really set out to write something. When you look at the music of the ’90s, it was specifically directed toward political and environmental concerns, etc. So I was making a conscious effort to write about something particular. Some of those early songs really was just sitting there and letting the stuff come through. In a lot of ways, that’s the best music, I suppose. It depends on how you approach what you want from it and what you do with it. There are a million ways to approach songwriting, including a bunch of guys sitting around like a bunch of lawyers in Nashville. That’s what they do down there – they have meetings. [He laughs.]
ND: I have a songwriter friend who does exactly that.
DF: It’s like a factory. So, there’s no rules and there’s no limit to the way to approach writing songs. So I don’t feel as intuitive as I used to. Most of the intuitive things I feel today musically are probably the instrumentals. That stuff is coming through and I’m just riding along with it. When I sit down over the last 10 years, it’s usually with a specific idea in mind, you know, like when I was writing the Christmas record. When I needed an opening piece, I didn’t know what to use, so I said it’s gotta be something that’s really up and very [Dickensian] and from that era… So I had a very clear picture in my mind. I walked in and wrote “At Christmas Time” in, like, half an hour.
DF: I’d already sketched it out, put everything in line – all I had to do was fill in the pieces. So that’s a different way to go.
ND: That’s cool.
DF: With something like “Same Old Lang Syne,” it started as an exercise in songwriting. I never thought it was important or interesting or would see the light of day. It took a year and a half and turned into something monstrously bigger than I would have even dreamed.
ND: That was a scary-ass song. I remember the first time I heard it, right after John Lennon died. I was working in Kentucky and it came on the radio. I was somewhere in the house and just heard your voice and knew I had not heard that before, but something sounded familiar about it. And I came out and realized that it was something absolutely brand new that wasn’t going to show up in a form where I could buy it for another two years almost. But (laugh) it was really cool to hear it.
DF: Really commercial move on my part.
ND: I think it was, in essence. You had that one; you also had “Times Like These” from Urban Cowboy. [It offered fans a taste and made them hungry for more and all too ready to buy once a purchasable release hit stores.]
Speaking of movie songs, how did it feel to be the epiphany in FM? Have you seen it? The “Gambler” scene? [In the scene, Eileen Brennan’s character has the epiphany to which I refer; in the background is Fogelberg’s “There’s a Place in the World for a Gambler.” Best scene in the whole damn film.]
DF: With Eileen Brennan? It was nice. It was cool. It was the only intimate moment in that whole film. Really, it was kind of a goofy film.
ND: It was a totally goofy film. But that scene felt so real.
DF: I haven’t seen that – haven’t even thought about it – in 20-odd years. It was kinda cool.
ND: Yeah! OK, you are coming to Baltimore. I can’t remember the last time you were in Baltimore.
DF: I can’t either.
ND: In September, what will the Fogelberg faithful be treated to?
DF: This is solo acoustic – just me, guitars, and piano. I hear the theater is quite lovely.
ND: Yeah, the Morris Mechanic is really quite lovely. I’m wondering if acoustically it’s up to the task, but if we’re talking one man, guitars, and piano, it should be just fine.
DF: We’re usually pretty good at putting it together anywhere. I guess they’ll hear something old, something new, something borrowed, and some blues. [We laugh.]
ND: I have to ask you about the blues: Where the hell did that voice come from?
DF: I’ve sung in bands since before I ever did solo stuff. I started in bands when I was only 12 years old. I’ve always been a screamer – I can croon and I can scream. We used to do James Brown songs, for God’s sake, and all this R&B, so I’ve been singing R&B and blues since before I sang the ballad stuff. That’s what I really grew up doing, you know. Back then, I was imitating Paul McCartney, ’cause we did a lot of Beatles tunes – I was imitating Paul imitating Little Richard, so I was doing all those screams and all that. So I’ve spent a lot of my life screaming. [We laugh.] And I can still do it. It doesn’t hurt my throat. It’s just another voice. When you listen to McCartney, he can be as endearing as he wants, and then he can really scream and rock. That’s where I learned it. That’s the thing about the Beatles: They blew the doors off everything, so there are no rules. I can sing “Longer” and then “Statesboro Blues” back to back, which I’ve done. And that’s because the Beatles said, “Hey – we can do whatever we damn well please. We can rock and we can tear your heart if you want.” And that’s who I grew up with. Those guys taught me all’s fair. [He laughs.]
ND: Will you ever do “Stars” again?
DF: “Stars”? I dunno. Maybe. I don’t think that’s an important enough song, to be honest with you. People like it.
ND: It’s my favorite song of all time [for its hopeful quality].
DF: It just seems there’s so much better material.
ND: I suppose. I think it has to do with…
DF: I think it’s rather embarrassing.
ND: Well, at our age, it would be.
DF: It’s kind of like some voyeuristic, youthful thing.
ND: Yeah – young stalker on the loose. In a way analogous to Sting’s stalker song.
DF: That was a little more ominous.
ND: That one was frightening.
DF: This was just yearning to have a date with this girl. That was its intent.
ND: The first time I heard it, of course, I was 10 years old.
DF: [Heavy sigh.] I was a bit older.
ND: Not that much. But the youthful innocence unclouded by adult worries… on that level, I think it’s just wonderful. It takes me back to a state of mind that, in one sense, I’m glad to be away from.
DF: Well, it’s bittersweet.
ND: Yeah! You know.
DF: Lovely to be that young and naïve and so madly in love.
DF: That’s a nice feeling.
ND: In a way, it is, and when I hear it today, it still takes me back. It’s weird, because in England, a group of songwriters came up with a list of the best songs ever. How do people do that? Anyway, number one on the list was the Beatles’ “In My Life.” And what popped into my head was, “Stars would be my number one; “In My Life” would be number two.
DF: That’s why this obsession with listing is so idiotic.
ND: Well, yeah! [We laugh.]
DF: We’re obsessed with this… lists of everything. It’s all so subjective, it’s meaningless. It’s one of my pet peeves, actually.
ND: I’m gonna take a guess and wager that you are probably the only other human who hasn’t fallen for that Survivor stuff.
DF: It’s stupid. I’ve never seen it.
ND: Good for you.
DF: I don’t watch television. I watch CNN to get the news.
ND: Ah, the Clinton News Network! [We laugh.]
DF: I don’t watch much of that stuff. We watch movies. Movies are great. Movies are amazing.
ND: Anything recently?
DF: The Perfect Storm is amazing. Ah… unbelievable.
ND: Good. I will have to check that out.
DF: Being John Malkovich is great.
ND: I did see that. What a great flick!
ND: Is that on video yet?
DF: No, we have satellite up here, so we get Direct TV so we can see all the new films at home.
ND: Isn’t that wonderful!
DF: Yeah. We don’t go out much… although we did go to the theater to see The Perfect Storm. See it in a big theater.
ND: To catch the splendor of the waves.
DF: It’s remarkable.
ND: I imagine it made you think of Maine.
DF: Yeah, it was pretty cool.
ND: You’re off there for a month or so,
DF: Yeah, we’re leaving in a week or so. Taking off next week.
ND: That’s good. I hope you have a really good time.
DF: Ah, we always do. And then we start the tour in New York and Boston in the middle of September, and then we’ll be down your way.
DF: I have to run; I have another one to do here.
ND: Yeah – thank you so much!
DF: I had fun talking to you.
ND: Look forward to seeing you in September.