That type of approach to art where you just destroy yourself and your loved ones, like dying for your art — I think I used to embrace that philosophy. But lately, especially with this last record, I’ve been trying to — because I don’t want to die alone — find a new way of still making good work, but not at the expense of the rest of your life.
Bill Callahan sketches out his songs lyrics first. The music takes shape once he enters the studio. “I always feel like the sound is already out there,” the 47-year-old singer-songwriter said. “I just need to find it.” Last October, when recording his forthcoming new album, “Dream River” (out Sept. 17), over six days at the Austin, Tex., studio Cacophony, he decided the sound he needed was dub. So he left room in the arrangements of several songs to give himself the option of concocting dub interpretations.
The way he listens to music is one of the most endearing and sweet things I’ve ever seen. He takes off his shoes, sets them down and gets comfortable. He kneels or sits in front of the record player, lifts the cover, reverently chooses a record, puts it on, closes the cover and just listens, start to finish. Whenever I go to see him and we listen to music like that, I register in myself how much better it feels than other ways of listening, which are like rushing to eat a meal because you’re super-hungry. You need to eat, just like you need to listen to music, but it never feels good if you do it like that. So I am trying to set my life up in a way where I don’t have to listen to music anyway other than putting on a record and sitting and listening.