Gilbert Carrasquillo, FilmMagic With no official duties at SXSW, the Roots…
- Posted on Sep 13th 2011 4:00PM by Eric R. Danton
"It's good to be able to put this out and start touring on it," Earley tells Spinner. Although he's vague on the specifics of what inspired 'American Goldwing' (out now on Sub Pop), Earley has plenty to say about the role of pain in art, and the period he spent homeless in the early days of Blitzen Trapper.
You've referred to this as the "real" Blitzen Trapper record. What do you mean?
They're all songs that I care a lot about and had a lot to do with my life and things I was going through at the time.
There was a tragedy that inspired you to write this record?
It's a personal thing. There was a lot of really bad stuff that happened to me last year, just in my personal life with relationships and people. It was really bad. I think that in the end, anybody who writes songs is going to end up pulling from all these things that happen to them, and whatever your experiences end up being.
Do you think pain is a necessary component of art?
It's a necessary component of life in general. We do everything we can to get away from pain, but in the end pain is what gives people strength. It's what makes life worth living. It's ironic. Sort of a double-edged sword, I guess, but in the end, the people who really appreciate life are the people who have gone through a lot of tragedy. And they're the people who are best able to help other people, too.
How much do those things inform how you make music?
A lot. I'm always trying to write from my experience, write what I know, write things that matter to me. I don't know that there's much separation. I don't write songs to make money or just party. It's not a light thing to me, I take it seriously. Maybe that's not good, I don't know, but songwriting has meaning. The words you speak have meaning, whether you mean it or not.
You were homeless for a while when you first started. How did that affect your music?
That couple years, I think it changed my perspective on a lot of things. In America, you choose to be homeless for the most part. Not everybody, but in a lot of ways, and I chose to live like that for a while. It was in a way a selfish choice, but also it was a way for me to maybe focus. It may seem silly or sound weird, but I didn't really give it a lot of thought. I moved out of my house and I didn't have a job, so I just started sleeping in this rehearsal space. When the weather was good, I was outside. I don't think I was super deliberate about it, to be honest. I just got rid of all of my possessions and moved out. I don't know. I had trouble that happened to me. It's like a whole life. I guess it informs what I do now to an extent, but I think it informs it just as much as were I grew up, and the guys I grew up with, and just as much as the women that I've been with and the relationships that I've had. It's all kind of the same.
Why was it a selfish choice?
I was wanting to play music and I was wanting to be something, but I felt like I didn't have the ability to achieve it or something. I just kind of wrote off everything. I'm the kind of person who will do that, like, "Yeah, I'm done with all this, I'm done with civilization," and that's not really what I was saying, but I think it was the way I felt. And I was still kind of playing music. It was at that time that I made 'Wild Mountain Nation' and 'Furr.' We had this little studio space and at night is when I would go in there and work in the middle of the night. The stuff I was using was garbage, and those records don't sound real great, but for me it was a way of focusing in and doing something without having these distractions. And it was a way to commit to it. Me being homeless, maybe, was a way to commit to something that had meaning, to do it or to die trying [laughs].
You've talked about a lack of ambition when you were younger. Is this what focused you?
I think it was. It definitely made me have something to work toward, or maybe not. Maybe it just gave me the freedom to do whatever I want. I really don't know.
After having some success, do you still recognize that homeless kid recording by himself late at night in the rehearsal space?
It kind of is hard to recognize. [Laughs] I went straight from that life to touring -- there was no in-between. For the first year of touring, I didn't have a place to come home to, and then I finally did. But it's been a gradual change. We didn't become super huge suddenly or anything. It seems like another life that I started when I started touring, and I've gotten used to it and figured it out. Maybe I'm just a different person now.