Michael Buckner | Frazer Harrison, Getty Images Now this is a collaboration that…
- Posted on May 3rd 2010 2:00PM by Jolie Lash
"Everybody's got a story, right? Or many?" he tells Spinner while discussing the roots of his band's second album, 'History From Below.' "I'm not that good. Sometimes I'm good. Sometimes I trip over my words a lot and that's why songs are so much better for me. I can't write [in novel form], but for me, I guess music was the outlet that I got at a young age."
Sometimes, the singer borrows tales from other people for his band's songs, like on 'Ballad of Vitaly,' the closing cut on 'History.' He wrote the lyrics for the song while on tour in Ames, Iowa, after stumbling on an implausible-but-true article in the New York Times at a local Starbucks.
"I read this piece on this guy who basically killed the man who was responsible for killing his family," Vasquez explains, referring to Vitaly Kaloyev, a Russian man who murdered Danish air traffic controller Peter Nielsen, who had been on duty when two planes collided, one which carried Kaloyev's family.
"He came to the guy's house just looking for an apology," Vasquez says of the 2004 incident that inspired the quiet song, driven by dark harmonies and a tender acoustic guitar line. "You know, vengeance isn't what made it better. Nothing was made better by that story -- and that's the tragedy of it."
Vasquez wrote other songs about himself, like 'Bushwick Blues,' which reminisces about his troubles with steady romance, and still others about his family, including 'Vivian,' a tune inspired by his beloved late grandparents.
The singer says the touching track, seemingly sung from the perspective of his late grandfather and backed by a dusty country waltz, happened after he overheard a conversation between his own mother and grandmother, who was dying of pancreatic cancer.
"She just kept saying how she's having all these morphine dreams [of] my grandpa who [looked] like Paul Newman, better than Paul Newman," Vazquez explains. "She was having all these dreams about him. We go off on tour, and on the way back we stop through. [I was] sitting out in the back yard and I witness this conversation with my grandma and my mom. It was very heavy. Through that, I basically picked up a guitar and played that song one time through and it was written that one time. It took as long to play it as I did to write it. It was the weirdest thing I've ever done and that's that."
"She used to be an elevator operator in the Empire State Building. Frank Sinatra winked at her," Vasquez adds. "She loved gardening and painting. She was the best."
'History From Below' is due out June 8.