A's to RT Discussion List Q's Part I
4/6/2006 (updated 4/6/2006)

RT Discussion List Q&A
Courtesy of Flip @

What did you consider a highlight at the evening mr Knopfler handed you the BBC Radio 2 Lifetime Achievement Folk Award?

RT: I thought the feeling in the room was very special. It's the first of these events I've managed to get to, and the sense of community was wonderful. It was great to play Matty Groves with the old regiment, and Meet On the Ledge with a cast of thousands (as Nicol commented, in mid-verse, if the bomb goes off now, there goes the entire folk scene!).

Many fans couldn't make it to the Radio 2 Evening. The BBC hasn't made your thank you speech available. What message you (globally) brought forward?

RT: They didn't broadcast my speech because the punchline was silent, and for lipreaders only. It's a bit long to reproduce here - suffice to say, it concerned a Lifetime Achievement Award given to Frank Sinatra by Capitol Records.

Can you confirm Mark Knopfler was among the first to pre-order a full set of your forthcoming Songbooks?

RT: Can he really be that desperate? It's news to me, but so are a lot of things.

Ryko has been sold to the Warner Music Group for $67.5 million. The Press Release said:"New York-based Ryko is an independent distribution company and label that owns a catalog of more than 1,000 titles, including rock, folk, jazz, world, blues and alternative" and your name was mentioned among others. What does an agreement like this have in store for a an artist like you?

RT: A bigger company means it's even harder to get any say in what they do to your records.

Over the years you have created a brilliant body of songs. Songwriters everywhere hold you in the highest regard. People like Bob Dylan are now just starting to trade in their cryptic comments regarding their art and muse, whereas you have always been articulate and honest (I try to read everything you have to say on the subject). Do you feel a responsibility or inclination to help other songwriters?

RT: Not really. I feel an obligation to maintain a dialogue with the listeners because the times demand it, and the medium, i.e. the internet, demands it, and to a lesser extent, the press demands it. If I didn't need the press or the internet to make a living, I would probably shut up, because talking about music isn't playing music, and I'd rather be playing.

Are you at all interested in sharing your knowledge and experience with up and coming songwriters either through workshops, mentoring relationships and/or print media? If so, how would you want to do that (or are doing so)?

RT: I don't feel I know that much that could be usefully passed on, and also see answer above.

If this is formally not in the cards, how much would it cost to get you to come out to the Manitoba Independent Songwriters Circle for a songwriters workshop here in beautiful Winnipeg? ;)

RT: Again, I don't know what I'd say.

Do you recall which song was the hardest to write (hardest, in terms of having an initial impulse/idea but having to wrestle that beast to the ground)? Are the ones you work hardest on necessarily the most rewarding?

RT: A rewarding song can be written in 5 minutes, or over five years. I have some songs I'm working on that go back farther than that. It's hard to pick one that was the most difficult....Pharaoh went through at least three major transformations. And I can't believe how many versions of Lotteryland I wrote, at least three of them not bad, but radically different. There are some songs written and hardly noticed, just jotted down in the margin, and not thought much of at the time, that may reveal themselves to you later.

Are there songs you have written that you still can't believe they made it all the way from conception to being in the repertoire? If so, would you care to share which ones by name?

RT: I'm surprised that some songs are popular, and as a result end up being played more than I would expect. Meet On The Ledge, for instance.

Writing songs from intimate personal experience can be difficult in terms of whether or not the lyric is universal enough without losing the unique qualities that come from individual inspiration and experience. Richard, when you were starting out as a songwriter did you have a process through which you would determine whether a song worked outside of your own understanding and would resonate with the general public? Were there particular people you would bounce songs off of or was it just a matter of trying things on an audience?

RT: I started writing with other band members or flatmates, Ashley, Iain, Ghosh, ideas would be presented to fellow writers in an atmosphere of mutual support and excitement at the possibilities. After Fairport, I would play songs to Linda, who was also supportive, and usually made the right noises. After that, I've relied on audiences to let me know if a song is any good, or my various producers - before any recording, we sit down and pick the better songs to go with for a record.

I'm looking for a historical perspective on the touring-musician experience. You've been touring the States, post-Linda and -Fairport, for over 20 years now. Taking into account that your own situation (reputation, presumably pay, etc.) has improved over that time, what changes in the live-music experience have you noted? How have the audiences changed? And do you know how things may have changed for us, the audience? Do you sense a difference in audience behavior, makeup, response, etc., in light of the current political climate?

RT: We're all older, but not much else has changed for me. The live sound is better, ticket prices are higher, but politically? I don't really do a political show, so I don't see people's persuasions that readily.