Mark Kozelek's Big Sur Show Canceled But The Weekly Still Raps With Him
October 10, 2012
“As songwriters, it’s important to be honest,” says singer-songwriter Mark Kozelek. But that sentiment is easier said than done and Kozelek—known for his work with Red House Painters and now Sun Kil Moon—continues to grapple with adhering to such a code after 20 years. “I guess the songs that are most difficult are the ones where you might be expressing feelings for [another woman] other than the one you’re with,” he says. “There are also ‘venting’ songs. You hope you don’t hurt the person you are writing about, but you change the name and a few details to dance around it. People give me CDs all the time and I listen to many of them. I can’t help wondering if they are trying to not offend anyone because the words are so vague.” Though honesty is sometimes difficult for Kozelek, his natural ability to consistently write lyrics dripping with detail is unrivaled.
Even simple lines like, “Smoked like a chimney, dressed like a witch/ Didn’t even speak much English”—from “That Bird Has a Broken Wing” off Sun Kil Moon’s recently released Among the Leaves—overflows with the kind of description that makes you question the old adage “A picture’s worth a thousand words.” Kozelek describes the new album as “more upfront than ever.” The detail found in his songwriting even seeps into the song titles. One example on Among the Leaves is, “The Moderately Talented Yet Attractive Young Woman vs. the Exceptionally Talented Yet Not So Attractive Middle Aged Man.” Kozelek says the tune is simply about “having fun” and all “the moderately talented cute girls” he’s met throughout the years. Some songs are lighthearted, others aren’t.” On “UK Blues”—there’s also a “UK Blues 2”—Kozelek attempts to sum up his distaste for London over melancholic acoustic guitar plucks and a single drumbeat pounding at a heartbeat rhythm. “It would take up too much time to express my feelings about London,” he says. “I’ve been going there for 20 years, hated it from the moment I arrived at Heathrow in 1992 and was hassled at customs. Everyone I knew who grew up in England lives in the States or Canada now, and it’s no surprise why. It’s a very dismal place, grey, enormous, bland to look at, and has a creepy vibe.” After an extended U.S./Canadian tour and an appearance Monday on Jimmy Fallon, Kozelek says he’s finally able to get a good night sleep in his own bed in San Francisco. And though his Oct. 19 solo-acoustic show at the Henry Miller Library was canceled, he plans on performing in Big Sur some time in the future. Until then, he’ll continue adding detail-laden songs to his already-prolific catalog. “Bobby Fischer said, ‘I want to play more chess,’” Kozelek says. “That’s me too. I want to write songs until the end. It’s what I’m good at and what I love.”