Anais Mitchell just released Young Man in America, a beautiful record that will definitely leave a mark for its universal lyrics, stunning arrangements and above all her refreshing approach to American songwriting.
We had the chance to ask Anais a few questions…
Good Music Fox: Hymns For The Exiled, 1984, Young Man In America…you definitely belong to the songwriters hungry for more than the eternal love songs… What usually makes you grab your pen and write?
Anais Mitchell: A lot of my songs start from the caveman feelings of desire and hunger that could easily go the direction of “baby I miss you” or whatever. But in order to have the heart to finish them there has to be the mystical chance for poetry and storytelling and usually by the time they’re done they’re about something less cave-like.
GMF: I can’t get Young Man In America out of my head. Where does that story come from, who is he?
A.M: There’s a lot of me in the Young Man, and a lot of people I know, but he’s bigger than that, he spans more generations, scenes, and ideas than one person’s story could hold. He’s running fast, running every which way, and he never finds satisfaction.
GMF: I’ve read that you traveled a lot around the world; Middle East, Europe…do you feel that this helps you to analyze the US A.M: society somehow with a fresher look? Or does this influence you at all?
A.M: It does give you fresh eyes to move around a lot and come and go from home. But you also miss certain things that a person who watches the same tree or child go through every season gets to see. I think the number one thing traveling a lot as a kid did for me, was make the touring life seem do-able, and appealing.
GMF: Some critics have already compared you to Cohen or Dylan. As nice as this is, how do you feel about these comparisons? And who are the music heroes you’d actually like to be compared?
A.M: Well those guys are the greats of the last century, you can’t help but set a compass by them and be awkwardly flattered if people think you’re on that path. But those guys in their time set a compass by ones who came before, and ultimately by the ancient forms. Those nameless ancestors are the ones I’d like to commune with. That said, if L. Cohen wants to come to my place for dinner, I’m into it.
GMF: It’s an election year in the US, as a musician, do you feel involved or concerned by the politics in the country or do you like to keep distance and act as a witness?
A.M: There was a time when I really set out to write protest music, but lately my songs tend to be less essay-like, more story-like, even if there’s a political streak in them. To be honest I’m embarrassed how rarely I pay attention to the news these days. I’m not proud. I gotta change that. It’s not the federal election stuff that I feel is so important, at least, not the long parade of ridiculous republican primary guys. But what’s happening in Syria… what’s happening with women’s rights legislation… that stuff requires careful attention.
Also see Anais’ answers to the Fox Questionnaire.