hella joanna newsom quotes about why/how she writes music:
I think there’s room for just about everything, every idea you have. I do think they don’t quite fit… I was very much prepared - mournfully resigned - to my expectation that this record would be very poorly received! There was not a single damn thing I wanted to change, I was so happy with it, but I didn’t think that it necessarily had a place within the context of recorded music, that people would bring home and listen to. I just didn’t know what was going to happen, I couldn’t hear it, it was the first time, I was a stranger, there was no way of knowing what it would sound like to someone else. But I don’t feel like it’s a retreat from this world; I feel like it’s maybe an invocation of some larger ideas that I’ve been scared to touch in conversation, or in previous songs, or whatnot, and those ideas are very much of this world. I don’t feel that I’m writing for a time that hasn’t existed yet, or that has existed previously, or anything like that, I don’t feel conflicted in that way…
I thoght it was really appropriate and consistent with the content of the songs, to have a really symbolically rich piece of work on the cover. That everywhere you look, everything in that painting is supposed to mean something. And it’s not really super-important that anyone know what it means, the same as it’s not super-important to know what any of these songs are directly referring to, but I think it somehow magnifies the charge and the strength and the worth of the work, to have that meaning. Like filling every nook and cranny with information - the choice to do the painting like that was made from that perspective.
As far as the construction of the long song goes from an instrumental perspective, I’d say that that was much more natural for me than the process of writing the lyrics. For years that has been the way that I wrote music, before I even sang. Certainly when I was in school attempting to be a composer, those were the forms it was almost taken for granted I would write within. And obviously no vocals…
It goes back to the decadence of allowing myself to luxuriate in this longer song form - it very much felt like a return to a way of writing that was really familiar and natural for me
R: You mentioned about the interest in pagan stories, where does that interest come from?
J: It comes in part as a nod to the friend for whom many parts of this record were written, who I can’t talk about very much. But I basically did some reading and studying specifically, I guess, in honour of her - I don’t particularly like that expression but I don’t know a better one. Sorry to be so cryptic!
“Emily”, it’s written for my sister, but it’s partially about my father, and I told him some of the stuff that that song means, because I knew nobody would understand it otherwise, and it’s not really important to me in general that people understand it, but I really wanted him to. So when it comes to my mind I’ll explain something but… It’s weird, like with your family it’s so intimate, it’s like talking about sex or something like that - it seems really gross somehow talking about music! I feel like it’s too close to home or something.
I feel like conceptually, in terms of the ideas I was struggling with, and then writing about, in some ways I feel I reached a certain resolution, and in other ways I felt like I had reached some extremity, some point where I felt I couldn’t feel worse, or I couldn’t feel better, depending on what we are talking about… And crested this hill, and there was endless mountain ranges stretching out before me. I think there’s certain heights or depths that the more you think about them and the more you go into them and write about them, the more boundless and paralysingly huge they seem. So, I feel like I certainly am different because of thinking and working the way that I did on these songs, but I don’t know if that change carries with it a great deal of resolution, or whether it’s a different kind of restlessness, a new way of being restless. But musically, I don’t really know… I feel this is a real self-contained project and whatever I do next will exist completely separately of this project. It’ll be either very simple again, or very complicated but in a totally different way of being complicated. I feel this is a complete work or idea for me, and it’s building something really delicate… And this is an image I hate to use, because it reminds me of thinigs people say about my music that I like the least, but the image that came into my mind was something very detailed and delicate, like a doll house built out of toothpicks or something like that, and it took me months and months, and I had a bunch of other people helping, like I had an architect, and a draftsperson and a contractor, and all these, Jim O’Rourke, Steve Albini, Van Dyke Parks, and my label who helped me so much, and the orchestral players… I had so many things in place that allowed me to make this little house, and when I was done I couldn’t help, I was just bellowing and weeping for weeks after I finished this project because it was just so huge for me, and I was so overwhelmed by how everything had come together, and it was exaxctly the way I wanted it to be, and now it’s this object that so much work and attention has been put into, but it’s contained. Nothing else to do on it, and whatever I do next is going to be pretty separate from that.
Writing, writing, writing obsessively, because that’s all I like to do, outside very mundane things that aren’t worth mentioning. Somehow by chance several of the right people who should have heard it, herad it, and let me make a record, and all this stuff happened.
various quotes from joanna newsom in this interview that she did after completing ys
i took these quotes because they all suggest that her writing and her being a musician is not motivated by any concept of writing for an audience or writing to be understood. when joanna newsom writes music its not necessarily with any long term goal in mind, but instead its this really hyperinvolved, naturalistic outpouring of herself and her thoughts, some of which are abstract and (intentionally) not fully formed. its an emotionally taxing, roller coaster experience, which she goes through with no result in mind, least of all for her songs to be ‘understood,’ but instead because its something that she is unconditionally driven to do, something that she can’t imagine not doing, maybe even a compulsion. there are some deep, deep things in her mind being referenced in those songs, but she expects there to be no simple outlining of their meaning possible. again, she has no explicit intention in her songwriting, which follows from the fact that writing music for her is like breathing.