suggestioni musicali a cura di raffaello russo
A couple of months after the release of his fourth album “To Live Alone In That Long Summer” and just before his new Italian tour, introspective Canadian songwriter Barzin talks about the creative process behind his lastest album and about his very special relation with Italy. Our talk has been focused mainly on the recent years, as we already had a wider interview with Barzin, which is still available for reading here.
Once again, it took you quite long to release a new album. Can you tell us how did you spend the time between “Notes To An Absent Lover” and “To Live Alone In That Long Summer”
I began working on the songs for the new album right after I came back from a tour I did for my last album. When I cam back, I was not sure if I even wanted to make another album. But when you finish an album and a tour in support of it, sometimes you don’t know what to do with yourself. So I did the only thing I know how to do, which is to write songs and work on music. So I was writing music during this time, but I was also keeping myself busy with other activities. I began to working on my poetry. I’ve been writing privately for many many years and I’ve accumulated a lot of material over that time. So I started to go through all the writings I’ve been doing over the years and began to edit them. I finally put some of these poems into a book that I put together with a friend of mine, Erin Robinsong, who is a great Canadian poet. It’s a very gratifying feeling to have finally made a small book from my writings. I also did a bit of work with a band by the name of Memory House. They approached me to produce their album, and so I worked on that with them. Although, in the end they were really the ones who produced the album. I was mainly there to offer them some advice.
The album title has been inspired by a verse of Yehuda Amichai: generally speaking, are you interested in different arts other than music? Any literary reference or inclination?
Yes I am interested in several different art forms, but the two that have been a big part of my life have been literature and film. These two things have been in my life since I was a teenager, and my interest in them has not diminished over the years. When I was younger, I had aspirations to become a writer, and I went to university to pursue it, but it was during my first year in university that I really started to pursue music seriously so set aside my desires to become a serious writer.
The summer named in the title seems like the fourth of the “seasons of your soul”, just like your albums followed a seasons’ cycle. Still, its mood is not so happy: do the season have an influence on your way of living and on your inspiration?
That’s interesting. I hadn’t thought of my albums in that sense. I am not really sure what the mood of this album is. I try not to think about this album on those terms. I think seasons have their own quality to them, and they do make me think differently. I do love summers, mainly because we have such long winters in Canada. I love the freedom that summer offers. You always have a sense that it’s your opportunity to escape. But I am not sure to where.
The summer references in the lyrics, made me remind a verse by Piano Magic, “it hurts more to carry a heartbreak through the Summer”: do you share a similar feeling?
Yes I can relate to that line. Summer feels like such a joyous period. It almost feels like you are betraying the spirit of summer if you carry with you’re the sadness of a heartbreak.
The subjects and the mood of all your records are quite introspective and melancholic: do you think that melancholia and pain of heart are essential for your inspiration?
I definitely think that I feel compelled to write when I am going through a difficult period in my life. Writing for me is way of sorting out the emotions I am feeling. The music gives shape to my feelings, and the words try and make sense of what I am feeling.
Given the variety of arrangements and somehow more upbeat tempo of “To Live Alone In That Long Summer”, it looks like in each album you tried to add something to your songs: do you think you have now reached the ideal expressiveness for your songs?
I really liked the arrangements on this album. I’ve always been drawn to minimalist instrumentation and arrangements, and sometimes it’s hard to know what new directions you can take with the restriction that you place on yourself with limited number of instruments. So I was happy with the way we were able to stay true to the aesthetics of minimalism and at the same time make the arrangements sound full.
Did something change in the way you approach music writing since the time of your first records? And in your approach to music as a listeners?
I think when I first began writing songs, I was very concerned with finding a sound and style that was authentic and felt like my “voice.” As I get older, I find I am not as much concerned with that anymore. I am just interested in writing a good song, whatever genre it may be in. My music listening has not changed very much. I have always been interested in music from all genres, and I continue to listen to music from a wide range of styles.
Among others, your old friend Tony Dekker took part to the record and on the credits one may read thanks to Sandro Perri. You did work with both in the past, but generally speaking, how’s sharing with them and with many other artists your songs that are so personal?
I’ve known Tony and Sandro for a very long time. They’ve been familiar with my music through out these years, so it’s never been an issue sharing my music with them, no matter how personal it is. They are both great musicians. I have immense respect for their work.
Is there any artists you’d like to work with in the future?
Well, I recently did a show with Mark Kozelek. It was nice listening to him perform live. He seems like a very interesting songwriter. He really cares about the music, the lyrics, and the guitar playing—All things that I really care about. I wonder what it would be like to work with him.
Last time I saw you playing live, you covered two songs by Jason Molina. His recent passing impressed so much people who love his music: what’s your relation with him and with his songs, from a personal and artistic point of you?
I’ve been a fan of Jason Molina’s music from his early days as Songs:Ohia. I find his music to be very genuine and honest. He was able to capture the authenticity of his songs in recordings. That’s a very hard thing to do. It’s sad that he passed away at such an early age.
What’s your point of view about music distribution through the web nowadays? And more specifically, what’s the importance of blogs in terms of “spreading the word” around?
I feel very conflicted about the way music is heard and shared over the internet. On one hand, lesser-known musicians are now able to get their music heard by a larger audience. Anyone can find any band or artist by searching them on the internet, and contact them directly. That is a very powerful thing, and something that was not possible years ago. On the other hand, musicians need money in order to have to time to create and record albums. These things are expensive. With so many people downloading music and not paying for it anymore, its harder and harder for musicians to generate income. So they are forced now to touring more or taking on jobs that take them away from creating. And as a result less time is spent writing music, and less money can be spent making an album. I think it’s possible to make good albums with a small budget, but that is a very hard thing to do. To make a good and strong album you need lots of time and money to work and re-work songs that you are recording. Albums such as Dark Side of the Moon, or The White Album, these were expensive albums and took a long time to make. Bands and songwriters without much money will have a very hard time making albums that can reach the depth and quality of these albums.
For the first time “To Live Alone In That Long Summer” has been released in Italy through Ghost Records, in the last song of the album you sing about Italian girls, you will be touring Italy soon again. Can we say there’s a peculiar connection between you and Italy? What do you think it is for?
I am very happy that I finally got a chance to release something through Ghost Records. I’ve known the people who run that label for a very long time, especially Giuseppe Marmina, who is a fantastic person and who has been supporting my music since the early days when I started recording. My relationship with Italian audiences feels like a special one. Italians are very open with their feelings, and they aren’t afraid to share it with you. In a lot of ways Italians are similar to Iranians (that’s my background). They are passionate people and deeply love one another. Every time I am in Italy it’s very special. And of course I love the food that is produced in Italy, specially the wine.
Lastly, what else can we expect from you in the near future, and what do you expect from music?
I really have no idea what the future holds for me. Of course I have many ideas for another album, and maybe I will be able to find a way to make it. But for me, making albums is a very long and drawn out process. So we will see what happens. I am also curious to try my hand at some other things that are not music related. I’ve been doing music for over 15 years now. So I have not put my time and energy in any of my other interests. So maybe I will take some time off from music to pursue those interests. We will see.
Thank you Raffaello for talking to me about this new album. I really appreciate your time and interest.