March/April Answers, Part I
5/17/2008 (updated 5/17/2008)

I believe I read in an interview you gave sometime in the past year that for your next project you have been commissioned to do a song cycle. Can you give us any more details on this at this time? Glenn Gray

This project is slated for a performance at Penn State College, in the second week of June 2009, and is commissioned by the International Society Of Bassists. The piece will feature the playing of Danny Thompson. As the piece develops, it appears to fall somewhere between a song cycle and a folk opera, but this could still change. We hope to use a string section drawn from students at the college.

I've noticed on several of your songs that during certain parts the vocal melody you're singing is roughly the same melody as the one you're playing on your guitar (I guess I'm thinking specifically of the first line of "Beeswing": "I was nineteen when I came to town..."). Do you write the vocal melody first, and then fit your guitar around that, or is it the other way around? Those parts are always my favorites. Anyway, I like your music very much and I really appreciate the opportunity to ask you a question. Giles Smyser, Kirksville, MO

This is really a ‘folk’ style of playing. In traditional music, you often hear the melody being played simultaneously by the instruments and the voice, over just a drone or very simple accompaniment. I would say that having written the song, you would probably start with the vocal, and then figure out how to accompany it.

I have recently purchased a ticket for Richard's gig at the Royal Festival Hall, and wonder what sort of evening will it be, as there is no 1,000 years of popular music, or an album to tour behind. Will it be one of those special request shows that the USA get the benefit of ? If so, is there any chance that Richard will perform "Keep Your Distance", "Dry My Tears and Move On", and "Put It There, Pal" ?

I would also like to know who Richard thinks does the best cover version of his songs, and whether he would ever consider, after The Cuckoo Bird on the Henry Smith tribute, a series of concerts with Eliza Carthy ? Thank You,Thomas Casagranda

This will be a solo acoustic show. I’ll keep in mind your requests, and see if I can sequence some, if not all, of them. The Festival Hall is too large to do the request show – it requires a certain intimacy to pull it off. Glad you like Eliza, as I do, and I’d be very happy to do more with her in the future. My favourite cover version is ‘The Great Valerio’ by Swan Arcade.

Of all your rarified talents, the most extraordinary, I find, is your unmatched magician's talent to be highly visibly-invisible - the ultimate singer-songwriter-player preserved in obscurity. Sure, there are awards here and there - "accidental slips" I suppose – after all, there is media anarchy. However, the latest feat of failing mention in an English music magazine's declaration of "50 Years of Great British Music" (!!!) far far surpasses David Copperfield's having made the Statue of Liberty disappear - momentarily, as it was. What's next? Bruce Young, Santa Cruz, CA

To be invisibly visible seems to me to be the paradigm of the modern musical world. 90% of the iceberg of talent is invisible, but you’re just a click away from total knowledge. It’s just finding the aperture.

In the early 70s I took a chance on an interesting looking album of a guy dressed in black with a guitar and wearing a bug mask. Around that time I tried out a record with a couple nice looking young ladies on the cover - the Roches. A few years later I picked up Loudon's Final Exam after seeing him on TV. Also the tube acquainted me with the Mcgarrigles. Before all this my favorite recording artist was Captain Beefheart.

Lets see if I can get this in order. The Mcgarrigles show up on one of your albums and also an Albion record. I find out that Mr. Wainwright has kids from a Roche and a Mcgarrigle. You wind up on one of his albums and produce two more.

Beefheart's drummer, John French joins you and a couple of other excellent gents for two very interesting CDs. I've been an all time science fiction, horror, fantasy fan. Harlan Ellison? He was guest of honor at the first sci-fi convention I attended. Being a Fortean, this almost smells of a conspiracy. How did you get involved in this project? Somehow you don't strike me as being fannish. Do you have interest in the genre? Francis X. Weyerich

I got involved in the Harlan Ellison project by knowing the producer/director, Erik Nelson. Harlan is a fabulous writer…I used to read a lot of genre fiction, probably less these days. And I never cease to be amazed at the connectivity of the world. I think of it more in layers – you keep running into the same 2,000 people.