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Home Culture Gary Louris, singer of The Jayhawks: “Spain is a country where you ask for a cigarette and they give you the entire pack” | Culture

Gary Louris, singer of The Jayhawks: “Spain is a country where you ask for a cigarette and they give you the entire pack” | Culture

by News Room
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Gary Louris, in a photograph provided by the artist.STEVEN COHEN

Advantages of accumulating many years of work. There are barely three quarters of an hour left until Gary Louris (Toledo, Ohio, 69 years old) takes the stage at the Noches del Botánico festival in front of The Jayhawks, but there is not an atom of concern in his eyes. He has lounged in the garden to enjoy the benevolent afternoon sun, shares with ostentatious placidity a glass of white wine with his wife, Stephanie Stevenson – they married five years ago and he considers her his only “great true love” – and gives himself to the conversation with pleasure and calm, as if the page in his agenda was empty. But more than 2,000 people are waiting to chant with him Waiting for the Sun, Stumbling Through the Dark o Angelyneamong other essential titles for any lover of the American genre.

Ask. Now that you are celebrating four decades leading your band, have you already discovered how a song is born?

Answer. You have to start from a desire to create, from an existential motivation. And you have to be with your antenna up, open to what is happening around you. In fact, I’m almost always humming new music in my head, but most of the time it’s not very good, so to speak…

P. He was an architect before rocker

R. And it was good for me, because the process of writing a song is similar to designing a house. They are creative processes that you have to complete from start to finish, trying to make each part as perfect as possible. And that is complex, because 90% of ideas are rubbish and you have to gain confidence in yourself so as not to get discouraged waiting for that remaining 10%.

P. At this point in your life, are you only writing love songs?

R. One after another, because this is the first time I’ve ever been truly in love. I was never attracted to the idea of ​​writing a lot of political songs, because I prefer to address universal issues and not have them become outdated over time. I’m interested in politics, mind you, but I try not to bring it too much into my work. I suppose it’s a form of escapism on my part, but news bulletins seem like bubbles on the surface to me right now. The noise often hides deeper, more important issues.

P. Perhaps that is why we need to continue to inform ourselves.

R. No doubt! It happens to my wife, who is a news junkie, but I find it exhausting. We live in a political cycle in which everything is divisive and there is no way to listen to news, only opinions. The division between left and right has become a business: some networks feed their sector of the electorate like preachers to the choir, and that is not healthy. There are channels that are safe, but I do not like CNN or Fox.

P. Are you worried about what happens in the November elections?

R. A lot. Trump is not a politician, but a media phenomenon. He would be a fun character from an entertainment point of view, but he is so dangerous… We now live outside Montreal, next to the mountains, we exercise a lot and that gives me a more peaceful perspective, but in the US we do live Bad Times (Bad timesthe title of a famous song performed by The Jayhawks).

P. Why do you think your band, which is rather a minority, enjoys such popularity in Spain?

R. It was a mutual crush since the first tour, 20 years ago, a memorable trip that the magazine sponsored Sound World and it allowed us to make good friends, including (the producer) Paco Loco, who has become an inseparable part of my life. We still have to debut in Italy or Greece, but the Mediterranean character fascinates me. Spain is a country where you ask for a cigarette and they say: no, no, take the whole pack. And then there is the Hemingway factor…

P. ¿Hemingway?

R. One of Stephie’s best friends is her high school classmate Patrick Hemingway, a direct relative of the writer, and Spain comes up a lot in the conversation. She is only uncomfortable to understand Hemingway’s fascination with bulls. I went to a bullfight once and I can understand the emotion, but it leaves you feeling bad. I had to experience it, but I would never go back.

P. Are you aware of the Spanish public’s devotion to your song? Save It For A Rainy Day?

R. Can you believe that I don’t remember how I was born? It’s funny, I remember the names of people who introduce me, but not many things that directly concern me. Ideas are floating around in your head and you don’t judge them, you don’t listen to your voice, you just let them flutter around. Then you come back to them and shape them. But I don’t remember the day or the particular circumstance.

P. You make it difficult for your biographer…

R. Well, there are exceptions! Blue It came out in one go, I got really excited and ran to visit Mark Olson, then a bandmate, at his apartment to show it to him. All The Right Reasons, which came to me on a free day between concerts in a hotel in Rotterdam. Today I know that Stephanie inspired her, even though we didn’t know each other then…

P. Are you going to celebrate your 70th birthday together in some special way?

R. She wants us to have a big party, but deep down I’m now living my 70th year, so we shouldn’t give it that much importance either. You have a mental, internal age, and I feel like I’m 35 years old, except that in front of the mirror I discover that my hair has turned gray. To cheer myself up, I think that Chrissie Hynde is fantastic and my good friend Lucinda (Williams) is also older than me, so they can still see me as a youngster.

P. By the way, what happened to Marina, the protagonist of Save It…?

R. Marina was a photographer and I used her name because I liked the name, but the song is not about her. I am not a very biographical author. Sometimes I would like to be able to write more about myself, but I am more attracted to the sound of the words. And that they themselves end up finding their own meaning.

P. I never knew if that was a sad or happy song…

R. I like songs with bright and pleasant melodies that tell melancholic stories. That creates a beautiful contrast.

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