Friday, February 22, 2013

Why songs matter

Today I clumsily interviewed a band called Of Monsters and Men, from Iceland, who were the soul of politeness and co-operation. They payed two songs live, full band performances, no messing about with  'acoustic' sessions.

They were in Glasgow, I was in Shetland, they were at the start of a sold-out British tour, massive across the world. Yet they came into the BBC's Glasgow studios and performed impeccably, spoke as well as anyone could have expected. Yes, I did ask them if they'd been picketed by fishermen, and it seems they haven't. But are looking forward to it.

I managed to interrupt one of their songs during an seemingly endless pause, but they were great.

There was just one moment. I asked about their first, breakthrough single, Little Talks, which I know is about mental illness and deeply personal to the band. What was it about, I asked. "Anything you want it to be" answered Ragi.

I laughed. But good grief, I despaired at that moment. How often have I heard tosspot musicians say that? Then I thought, they're just youngsters. Let it go.

Because songs, I believe, are not about 'anything you want'. They're specific. They may be enigmatic, obscure, elusive and eccentric. But they're about something. And the writer knows what that is.

An example. This reduces me to a juddering wreck when I hear it. But it's not just honest and very clear, there's a fearlessness about it which may, yes, come from the fact that the writer and performer  is an elderly man who has seen and done almost everything, an intellectual and massively successful formal musician. And if you ask him what it's about, he tells you. It's deeply, deeply personal. But it's a song that matters.

 It's about something.

1 comment:

tracy said...

I agree completely and what if it's both?