Cass McCombs talks drifting and trying not to care in advance of his Entry show tonight
Cass McCombs could be considered the definition of Americana -- if continental influences, simultaneously channeled and undercut, could be called particularly American. Mistily folkish, reminiscent of soul, rock and roll when it needs to be; McCombs nebulizes it all into a sort of midsummer fog.
We spoke to Cass McCombs about the pretenses of troubadourism, songwriting, and not caring.
A lot of material refers to you as a 'wanderer'...
I mean, so many musicians live this way. Pretty much all musicians I know live this way. I can't really afford an apartment and tour, so... it's just one or the other. When I'm not touring I'm making a record, and stationary.
So it's more like something people put on you.
I'm just like every other musician, you know, in that regard. I don't know why they don't mention that about other people...
So I guess Sum 41 are as troubadourish as Cass McCombs.
I'm wondering about the specifics of how you first got going. It was in Baltimore and New York, from California?
After a while of traveling I ended up in New York, I don't really remember. That's ancient history to me.
How were you able to do that, did you pack up a rucksack and hitchhike or... ?
A little bit of hitchhiking, um, but when you're young, you're just driving around, you know? That's what I wanted to do was just drift. I didn't go to college, I always thought that that would be the best school. Read the books that I want to read, and read them in interesting places. And meet people, and listen to them, and hear how other people are living.
How did you afford it?
Didn't have money, still don't. Doesn't take much really. How do you get $8? You just get it.
I think people are captivated by the idea of a sort of Kerouac-type person, and at least in my case you would over-think something like that to the point of impossibility. Does that make sense?
No, it doesn't make sense because most of my friends are exactly like me. It's hard to explain it because it's like, as plain as the nose on my face.
When did you start playing your first instrument?
I was raised around musicians so I started when I was a kid. Started with piano. Played a bunch of different instruments until I was like 13, started playing guitar, then started playing with other people.
Were your parents musicians?
What did they do with their musicianship?
I don't really want to talk about my parents.
So you were sort of self-taught? When did you start writing songs?
I took a lot of music lessons in junior high, elementary, high school -- so I wouldn't say I'm self-taught. I was, you know, reading music. And you don't just learn that on your own listening to Jimi Hendrix or whatever. But I don't know when I started writing. I think any musician, when they pick up an instrument, or find themselves in their instrument, they start to find their own voice. It's your voice coming through your instrument. It's why classical music, or folk music -- it's up to the interpretation of the performing. There's not one way to do "Dixie" -- you should do it your own way. The only way to do it is to do it your way. I think that's exactly what songwriting is -- it's a process of finding who you've always been.
That's always been my opinion of good art -- the best an artist can do is be themselves, and whether it resonates is out of their hands. Does that make sense?
I totally agree. So much pandering going on right now in art, everyone wants to be well-liked.
I don't know why but Shepard Fairey just popped in my head when you said that.
How do I know that name?
He did the blue cut-out-y poster of Obama that he got accused of plagiarism for. Anyways -- do you feel lucky that, for whatever reason, what you put out resonates?
I don't care.
I just don't. I don't want to be disappointed when I come home and no one's calling, you know? I just try to wipe it from my brain and just enjoy myself and not worry about that whole head trip.
The Cass McCombs Band plays the 7th St. Entry tonight. 8PM Doors / 18+ / $12
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