Adam Levy Q&A

May 21, 2019
On the art of songwriting

“You have to be honest when you write songs. That’s part of your job.”

 

Do you tend to get the words or music first?

It happens differently. With the song “Potter’s Field,” I wrote it without a guitar riff or anything. I had the words. I had the phrase, “There’s a cloud of blackbirds, they’re looking for the seeds of autumn on the ground.” I was looking out the window and the sky gets full of blackbirds at certain points and they move in these bizarre clouds. I was thinking of them scavenging around. The song is about how it’s hard to keep a hold on to what we remember.

Do some songs come fast?

They can. I wrote the song “How I Let You Down” off of Naubinway in two hours. But others can take a long time.

You wrote a song called “Eucatastrophe” that is memorable in that it’s not linear and relies heavily on images and atmospherics.

It’s a mood piece. I was feeling disconnected at the time. There’s a line in it about looking for oblivion. That was what I was feeling at the time so I went with it.

You’ve never been afraid to face difficult truths in your music.

You have to. That’s one of your jobs as a songwriter. To be honest.

Are you constantly writing songs?

I try to, but I’ve learned not to worry if they’re not coming. I’ve had periods where I didn’t write anything for over a year. I’ve learned to be fine with it. You have to trust that you’re not out of ideas. I use that time to fill up in other ways.

Do you have rituals that spur creativity?

I mostly like to stay busy. I always have a number of things going on. I like to be as creative as possible and be constantly introducing new things into the world. That energizes me.

How do you keep things fresh for you?

That’s a challenge for everyone. For me it’s staying open to being inspired by as many musicians and artists as I can. There are so many great performers in the Twin Cities. They inspire me to think differently about how I play and improve on what I’m doing.

You’re famously prolific. How many bands are you in at the moment?

I think I’m up to five that are currently going. There’s the Honeydogs, my main band; the Bunny Clogs, my band for family audiences; The Sunshine Committee, which is a soul revue; The Coming Collapse, which is psychedelia; and Turn!, Turn!, Turn!, which is acoustic folk. And there’s And The Professors and Liminal Phase, which aren’t currently active, and Shabby Road Orchestra, a Beatles project where we play the full White Album.

You must love music.

I do. I don’t know what I’d do without it.