Melodies are just honest. They can only be what they are. Words have the capacity for deception. They’re all full of subtext, and some of them are cliche and overused and vernacular. They’re tricky. All I can say is, words are tricky.
There is something comforting about going into a practice room, putting your sheet music on a stand and playing Bach over and over again.
No, it’s not dissatisfaction that inspires me to tinker with my songs, it’s just restlessness.
I think when I was pretty young I got really into the tone of my instrument and I remember just playing one note for an hour to just kind of feel the resonance of the violin.
I guess I’m attracted to more archaic words because they can be imbued with more meaning, because their definition is elusive.
The fact that I wasn’t expected to read music at all and was absorbing everything by ear… it had a huge affect on the kind of musician that I became.
I’ve always been fascinated and stared at maps for hours as a kid. I’ve especially been most intrigued by the uninhabited or lonelier places on the planet. Like Greenland, for instance, or just recently flying over Alaska and a chain of icy, mountainous islands, uninhabited.
I don’t write poetry and then strum some chords and then fit the words on top of the chords.
My mom had this romantic notion of her children playing classical music. The idea is you learn it when you’re still learning language. It’s using the same part of the brain.
There’s a lot of interesting words, nomenclatures, in science.
You travel with the hope that something unexpected will happen. It has to do with enjoying being lost and figuring it out and the satisfaction. I always get a little disappointed when I know too well where I’m going, or when I’ve lived in a place so long that there’s no chance I could possibly get lost.
I write a lot more when I’m happy, because you’re hopeful, you’re motivated.
Every time I get up in the morning, melodies occur to me and I start trying to shape lyrics to melodies.
Playing the violin and singing and whistling are just three different ways of making sound.
Guitars are kind of just, you know, sexy, especially old vintage ones.
The first notes I still play when I start a sound check are classical. Those are my roots.
Since I first picked up the violin, I’ve been very interested in tone and texture: I would have very visceral reactions to the texture of a snare drum or a pedal steel guitar or a violin.
The problem is, when you’re working with orchestras, you only get the orchestra for about two hours before the performance to pull it all together, and that doesn’t sound like a real collaboration.
Well, my main instrument is violin, but I think of myself as a songwriter who happens to play violin.
I don’t want technology to take me so far that I don’t have to use my brain anymore. It’s like GPS taking over and losing your internal compass. It’s always got to be tactile, still organic.
All the folks I play with come from jazz backgrounds or at least appreciate spontaneity within the parameters of a pop song.
There was a fascinating handmade poster scene in Chicago in the ’90s, and I became friends with many of the artists; the posters were often more impressive than the bands.
A good espresso to me is a little bit salty; you just become used to a good taste. Anytime I go into a new place and they don’t clean their machine properly or the water temperature isn’t right, it tastes awful.
My head is full of shifting patterns and polyrhythmic stuff; but I want to use all acoustic instruments and create this kind of tapestry of interlocking lulling parts.
I’ve done my share of busking, and it’s fun until it isn’t. There are musicians in the subways that will make you cry, they’re so good.
My favorite literature to read is fairly dry history. I like the framework, and my imagination can do the rest.
Honestly, I didn’t have the patience for biology or history in an academic sense, but I always liked the kind of big questions.
I am, in some sense, a writer. Even though I kinda downplay the word thing, I do enjoy writing sometimes.
What’s cool about indie rock is that one band can do effectively the same thing as another band, and one band nails it, and the other one doesn’t. I like that elusiveness.
I’ve always found that whatever you say about indie rock, it is the most inclusive genre or title for anything. It doesn’t pin you down too much, like other labels would. It’s just newer, it has less baggage. I’m happy to be in that category.
Usually bands with violins – it’s this little, poorly amplified looking kind of futile on stage, and that’s not the way that my music is put together.
I still kind of believe this absurd line that if you have to write it down, it’s not worth remembering.
Music as a social conduit has always been important to me.
I think I’m still a little too intense for my own good sometimes.
I mean, you still can’t jump offstage and go read a book. But I’m getting better at it. It is something you can manage. You can still give everything you have to the audience onstage, and have something for yourself.
What you see with your eyes when you’re making music is going to have a profound effect on what you hear.
Maybe it’s just, I’ve always been to the less traveled places, in any topic, whether it’s history, I always like to just choose the most obscure topic. And I don’t know why I have that impulse. I can’t really explain it but I’ve been doing that since I was a little kid.
A day off after a show with no agenda in a foreign city is about the most fertile creative situation I can imagine. Just walking with nothing to do, killing time and hearing the sights and sounds of an unfamiliar place.
The idea of writing songs because you’re depressed and you need to communicate it somehow, that isn’t really true for me.
I create little challenges for myself, like, ‘Okay, whatever you do in this song, you’ve got to somehow work in Greek Cypriots,’ or something like that.
I spend a lot of time working by myself developing songs, but I really need some other counterpart to help me pull it all together, because you go nuts working if I had to finish an entire project all within my own head.
The way I work, I’m not a confessional singer-songwriter.
In school I was painfully shy. But as soon as I had to get up in front of the class and give a book report, it was alarming – I’d suddenly be very articulate.