“I had a bit of a beef with New York for a little bit.”
The new songs that you’ve been writing, would you say that they are about any kind of specific theme, lyrically? Now that you’re listening to the whole thing, have certain themes emerged for you that maybe you weren’t aware of at the time?
I mean all of them are basically about heartbreak. They’re all heartbreak songs. But, I feel like when I wrote them, I wrote them in a more sleeping way than before. I think before I had a very clear idea from the very beginning what the song would be about. This time, like Joan Didion said, “I write to find out what I’m thinking.” It was very much like that, I just started with an image and then I wrote. In the end all the songs ended up about heartbreak. That’s just what I was thinking about.
So your heart was actually broken?
It came out of a real breakup, yeah.
It seems like you prefer to write about things in a very specific way, with a lot of detail, as opposed to grand, sweeping, universal pop song statements. Is that strategic in any way, putting a song in a specific context, rather than talking about the universal nature of heartbreak?
I mean, on the new record I think there is a more universal aspect to it, but you always have to start somewhere. You really have to start where you left yourself. I guess that’s why I’m more specific about the locations and the events.
Was the decision to go broader for new songs something you set out to do? Was it you trying to write in a different way, or just a natural evolution of your usual songwriting?
I think that in a way it came from all of the correspondence I do with the people who listen to my music on “Small Talk,” my website. The thing that people write to me most about is heartbreak and love stories. So, writing the album, in the end, I was trying to make it more universal so that people can relate to it. I thought that was important, I felt like those people would have wanted that.
When I’m listening to your songs, I sometimes feel like the detail can make it universal, somehow. Rather than something vague and abstract… even if you can’t match the exact situation, the little things are recognizably human at least.
Yeah, and it takes your brain on a ride, it takes you into situations. It almost tricks you into going there. I can’t remember who said this… a writer that I like said something about… a concept is never sexy. It’s much better to just start the story. And I think that’s how I usually start. I start with an image and then I start telling the story. As is the case with “Waiting for Kirsten” for example. It’s not really about me following Kirsten Dunst around while she makes a movie, it’s more about my hometown.
Because “Waiting for Kirsten,” was written about it filming in your hometown, I was wondering if you ever ended up seeing Melancholia?
I did, yes.
Did you like it?
You know, what I liked about it was that it was a movie about the end of the world where you Americans didn’t get to save the world at the end. I love apocalyptic moves, but with every one of them, in the end the Americans save the day. I really loved that the world actually ends. •