Gillian Welch: We suffered from writer’s dissatisfaction
Like many singer-songwriters, Gillian Welch does not touch her audience by being a “party band”. She tells Acoustic Guitar that people come to her shows to sink into her world for little while. In its latest issue, the magazine reviews her album The Harrow and the Harvest and calls it a “unique body of work”. In an interview with the artist we also learn why it took eight years to write the new album.
Ever since the album The Harrow and the Harvest was released it has been getting excellent reviews. The album “marks a lovely return” (BBC) and is a “classic” (Guardian). The album was published after a break of eight years. Now Gillian Welch gave an interview to the magazine Acoustic Guitar (February 2012 issue) – and reveals how she wrote the songs with her partner David Rawlings.
Welch says most of the songs were written in the “fall and winter of 2010”. It took her and David Rawlings so long after the previous album because they suffered from “writer’s dissatisfaction” rather than “writer’s block”. A lot of people urged them to write a new record, and eventually they “pushed through our dissatisfaction”.
How songwriting works
Most remarkably, Welch says she doesn’t record every melody or idea she has. She rather trusts that she’ll remember the song if it’s “worth remembering”: “So I kind of leave it up to the song to save itself.” She doesn’t work with a computer, but has a scrap book to take notes. Sometimes she sings a song or melody to someone else and asks them to remember it. And often, since she’s been working with David Rawlings for so many years, they sit on a couch and make up tons of verses (over 30 for one song). They then include only the verses they can remember in the final version of the song.
“We are an analog shop”
Gillian Welch doesn’t care “what the industry is doing”. She and David record the acoustic guitar and vocals in a room, “live into microphones onto analog tape, because that’s the most beautiful way to record acoustic instruments.” She knows that it’s much easier to record digitally. But, “whoever said any part of the artistic process was supposed to be easy?”
You can read the full review of the album and interview here.