zondag 19 mei 2013
Emmylou Harris Copes With the Deaths of Gram Parsons and Kate McGarrigle
Emmylou Harris Copes With the Deaths of Gram Parsons and Kate McGarrigle Posted on Apr 27th 2011 11:00AM by Lonny Knapp Jack Spencer Country legend Emmylou Harris has made a career of picking overlooked gems from the world's best songwriters and owning them. As an interpreter, she digs deep to uncover the gentle soul and beating heart of a song; even tired staples are born anew when filtered through her crystalline voice. However, in recent years, the 12-time Grammy Award-winner has taken to recording more of her own material. Her new disc, 'Hard Bargain,' features 11 original tunes and two covers, including a title cut courtesy of Canadian songwriter Ron Sexsmith. Emmylou Harris spoke with Spinner about that new disc, the mysterious songwriting process, her time with Gram Parsons and dealing with the loss of her dear friend Kate McGarrigle. Since 1995's 'Wrecking Ball,' your albums have featured more original material. How did you come to find your voice later in your career? Maybe I was lazy, or maybe I was nervous that I wouldn't come up with something good. I knew I could write, but there were all these great songs out there by other people, ready for the plucking. Perhaps I had exhausted some of my song-finding talents, but after 'Wrecking Ball' I decided to put on my writing hat. Amazon Listen to 'Hard Bargain' for Free The 11 originals on 'Hard Bargain' deal with an impressive a range of subjects. Has interpreting so many great songs helped shape you as a songwriter? To me, songwriting is a mysterious process. Sometimes it just falls in your lap. Other times, it feels as though you have a big block of granite, a hammer and a chisel, and you're just hammering away. I am so grateful anytime I get an idea that I can see through to the end. When you cover songs by the greatest songwriters in the world, it's a bit intimidating when you start to write for yourself. You want your songs to hold their own, but you have to compare to the songs you've covered -- there is a standard there, and I hope that I've reached it. I'm very satisfied with the songs on the record. Getty Images The opening cut, 'The Road,' retells the story of your relationship with Gram Parsons. Was it hard to open up about such a personal time? It wasn't really my decision. When you get a lyric and song idea that has some credibility and that you are connected to, you go with it. But I've been open about my time with Gram all these years, and it's not like it's a secret how important he was to me. This was just a retelling of a story I've probably told a million times. This is the truth, it's my story, and I'm sticking to it. Watch Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons Perform Live in 1973 Gram Parsons died so young. When you were with Gram did you have any idea that he would he would become an inspiration to so many musicians? I thought he was the greatest thing since sliced bread. He was turning me on to all this music, and we were singing harmony; I loved his singing voice. I thought we were going to go on and make all these records together -- when you are that young you never think of anyone dying. He was ahead of his time. He left us a very intense but small body of work, and there are a lot of people who say they're influenced by Gram. It's almost like his influence is more prevalent now, like he skipped a generation. I think people needed a bit of distance to really see it. 'Darlin' Kate' is about the passing of your good friend, Canadian singer-songwriter Kate McGarrigle. Was writing that song part of the grieving process? I didn't set out to write it. I was fresh off experiencing Kate's passing and her funeral, and I was just dealing with her absence. I was in a writing mode, when I picked up the guitar, the opening line just fell out. It's really just a farewell letter. We all miss her and we grieve in our own way. In country music there is a grand tradition of story songs. On 'My Name Is Emmit Till,' you embody the 14-year-old boy who in 1955 was murdered in Mississippi and became a martyr for the civil rights movement. That's a bit of a reach, why did you need to tell the story? I just got the line, "I was born a black boy, my name is Emmet Till" -- from there the story unfolded. I am just retelling a story that we all know, but in the first person. He was a martyr and changed the world for the better. But we shouldn't forget that no life is worth that. 'Lonely Girl' is a song about a woman yearning for love in the twilight of life. Is that song autobiographical? I have a wonderful life filled with family, friends, dogs and children, but I'm not in a relationship. I mean, I have so many relationships, but not the type that people feel you need to complete yourself. I don't hold to that. We all feel that something is missing, when there probably isn't. I got the melody and started reflecting, but it wasn't like I wanted to tell the world: "Feel sorry for me, I'm lonely." Watch Emmylou Harris' 'Goodnight Old World' Video A theme of reflection and passing time permeates the album. So many musicians seem to battle with growing old, while you seem to age with grace. What is your secret? We age; we don't have any choice. You might as well accept where you are in life. That doesn't mean there's a not a certain nostalgia for your youth; it's just part of the human condition. But it's easy for me because I have had such a wonderful life. Music inspires me, and it's a thrill just to get up there and sing. I don't have the stamina of Bruce Springsteen -- I can't play for three hours -- but I still love playing live. The title cut is a cover of Ron Sexsmith's 'Hard Bargain.' Over the years, you've performed songs by Canadian songwriters including Daniel Lanois, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. What draws you to Canada -- is it the maple syrup? I don't like maple syrup, and I hope that nobody holds that against me. I'm a Southern girl; we have cane syrup and molasses. But some of my biggest inspirations have been Canadian. The song 'Hard Bargain,' I had in mind for a few years. In fact, I wanted to cut it on the last record; for some reason, we just didn't. But when I played it for Jay Joyce -- who produced my current record -- he loved it. I don't know Ron very well, I have met him only a few times, but I am a fan of his music. Just about every singer-songwriter that you meet thinks Ron has hung the moon.