What is the worst ? It’s hard to narrow down the worst! But one of the worst things is packing up, after a poorly attended show. Or asking a bandmate who is already underpaid to be on-time, next time!
What motivates you to write? Songwriting is a chance to express the otherwise inexpressible. It feels like a privilege to me and I approach it with respect.
Early in your career, before you had any real success, what fed your determination to keep trying? Well, I don’t think I really had a sense of how abjectly underprivileged I was as a teen. I just had drive and angst. I didn’t have a choice — music and journalling was what saved me.
Are there some rituals you follow in your creative process?Stare out the window (which I commonly do anyway) but with pen, paper and guitar.
Photo by LIz Nance
How closely do you follow your original idea in the process of writing a new song?It starts with a loaded phrase, for me, melodic or word phrases — it’s like a seed. And I follow where this takes me. If a rhythm takes hold it will help me finish the song.
Do you typically work on one piece at a time or have several going at once?I rarely, if ever, work on more than one song at a time. Because it becomes a mantra until it’s finished, I don’t let anything else in.
Can you talk a bit about balancing being a writer with romantic relationships/family/ This is always in front of my mind. It is crucial for me to cordon myself off even from loved ones, so the inner voice is audible. I’m very distractible and can’t write songs with anyone else around. But supporting my partner’s creative endeavors is a way of life because we have a culture of reciprocity. When imbalances inevitably arise, we address them head-on and eventually arrive at a mutual benefit. I couldn’t live with someone who didn’t share my love of language, writing, or art. That said, I think there is a tremendous amount of spiritual work one must be willing to do in order to live with any other human in a way that is mutually beneficial, that’s my opinion.
How do you get through writer’s blocks? Even though I there are long periods without song writing, I’m not sure I believe in ‘blocks’ anymore. I tend to distrust proliferation for the sake of proliferation, ala factory production, where song writing is concerned. I think proliferation is a deep hang-over from the industrial revolution or the ’50’s. I’m unhip and un-Warholian that way. I’d have never passed his muster! When one is unhappy about not writing, it could be depression, in one of it’s many guises. I’m learning to trust that the writing returns as long as I let it.
How do you deal with the disappointment/despair when your work isn’t getting the attention you desire? How do find the strength to continue? I look to other artists for commiseration — a songwriter that’s been swallowed by technology, a painter that’s been marginalized by the crafts industry or graphic design, or a writers suffering the extinction of the printed word are everywhere. Remembering to reach out to one another is key to surviving an artist’s lifestyle.
What are your vices? Coffee and drink are my vices. But I try to be careful not to get dehydrated because I run, I hike — it’s all about balance. I have asthma, so I can’t drink before a night of performing, only after! I have never even tried a cigarette, I’m highly allergic.
What kind of pets do you have? I have one dog, Isabella Queen of France (or Izzy) and three ancient laying hens. We just lost a dog, a kind of Rat terrier, who was my heart. We are mourning this loss now.
What is the last wild animal you saw? Crows. They are beautiful and under-utilized compost machines. There eat all sorts of buttery things I can’t compost and so I put these things on a walnut tree branch and the crows carry it home like a paid service! I also put small roadkill on the branches sometimes. My neighbor has started doing this too — it beats having a smelly trash bin.
Pick one or two of your songs and describe the inspiration/inclination to write it and some of the process Some songs can really put you on a roll, come out of nowhere and write themselves, others take a tremendous amount of tenacity. Swifts and Swallows was written in memory of Mark Linkous, who produced my first album. It was the first thing I could write after a tremendous grief-caused block. Ravens at Night was laborious because I was having to tell a truth ‘slant’ as Emily Dickinson instructed. But out of the tedium came insight.
All said, I prefer songs that come to me in the middle of the night, and all you have to do is get up in the cold house, try and be quiet and get it down like dictation. The Woods Get to Know me was like that and so was Landslide.
Songs are much like having children. It’s conceived, you take care of yourself, best you can to give it a fighting chance, you finalize the thing, you give birth, you record it. You get clothes for it, put it on vinyl, internet, whatever and send it to college, try and garner some reviews for it, and hope the world doesn’t kill it. Since I don’t have children — this is as close as I know to it.
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of peace, quiet and meditation to my songwriting process. Time in cities, seeing friends or visiting museums is crucial but it is in the most natural environments that songs can come to me. There’s much to admire about hard work, professionalism, etc., but I posit that the first priority of an artist of any stripe is to keep their soul intact. It sounds a simple thing or maybe even a bit precious but it requires great conviction to be true to one’s soul in this ‘self-marketing through technology’ era we are in. After all, the soul is the vessel through which all the insights arrive.
Listen to some of Angela’s songs:
Swifts and Swallows from the album Anniversary:
(I was honored to be asked by Angela Faye to use my painting My Little Tranqulizers on the cover of Anniversary)
Pictures from Home from the album of the same name:
Grace from the album Anniversary:
Black/white photo of Angela Faye at top of page is by Kelly Timco
October 2014 NEWS: check out Angela Faye’s essay in ORION:http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/place_where_you_live/view/cowee_north_carolina_8390/
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