Q: Have you changed in other ways as a musician?
A: I think I listen more deeply now. I can sit still in a different way. Maybe my kids have brought this out to me, but I can listen to something over and over just the way that they can. I think I’ve gotten better as a listener, I think I’ve gotten better as a reader, and that changes how I write. It changes how I write words, how I write music, the whole thing.
Q: It’s interesting hearing you talk about your kids re-immersing you in the experience of attaching to something and wanting to hear it over and over again. I read something that you wrote for The Oxford American about the early days of the Del Fuegos, and this line jumped off the page near the end, where you were talking about being in Boston in your late teens. You said something along the lines of, “Music will never mean more than it does at that age.”
Q: There is something wildly potent about the role music plays in our lives when we’re young. I don’t know if it’s that we’re impressionable or that we’re experiencing things for the first time or what. Do you believe that music is in some profound way the province of the young?
A: Well, I agree with what I said there. But I also think when you’re going through things, you are awakened again to its power. Really. I mean, there’s something happening in relation to identity in that adolescent period where music comes in and it becomes a badge in a really profound way. You couldn’t take a painting and say, “My love for this painting tells you who I am.” But my love for this song tells you who I am. Then here in midlife – and I am a big believer that midlife is real, it may be a divorce that triggers it, or maybe death of a parent, but if you’re awake to it it’s going to find you — music is going to mean a little more.
Q: I agree. It’s such a weird, ripe time, and not in the ways that the clichés would have us believe.
A: Someone said to me that if you haven’t gone inside, meaning if you haven’t gone into your interior, by the time you’re 50 years old, the exterior will kill you. And I believe that. So what is midlife? It’s that process of going into the interior to find some sense of peace rather than putting it on the job, on a relationship, even on your children, because they can’t carry that burden. You can’t control what happens to your children or your relationships or your jobs. And man, if that shit is dragging you around you’re going to be in hell, because all that stuff is going to come and go and it just gets more and more intense. So you better have an anchor on the inside. For some people it’s yoga, or meditation, some form of spirituality, some way of finding stillness amidst all this movement.
Q: Are you going into your interior for the first time or have you always been a soul-searching kind of person?
A: No, I definitely haven’t always done that. I think I’m being dragged there, and I’m responding. I mean, I could respond by getting good and high, or trying to pick up my neighbor’s daughter. I mean, there are other options to get out of being dragged. I’m trying to choose the good ones.
Q: The Del Fuegos recently reunited for a couple of shows at the Paradise in Boston. What is it like to play together now?
A: Bands are like families in the sense that grow and change and develop as you might, when you all get together in the kitchen you’re going to regress at the speed of light to where you were before all that change and growth took place. You’ve got to be a little bit careful with this stuff. We all recognize it in families. You go home for Thanksgiving and it’s like, “God, why was that so brutal?”
Q: It’s a double whammy for you because your band actually is family.
A: Yeah. I think we handled it pretty well. There were a few bumps. The smart thing that we did was we rehearsed for the show.
Q: Was it poignant for you?
A: Not to talk too much about my kids, but the emotional part for me was having them see me do this, because the Del Fuegos part of my life was a big part. It extended beyond the time I was actually in the band. It was also the time getting used to not being in the band. I consider that all part of the fabric of that experience so having my kids witness this was intense.