Last year I was making drawings about cowboys and big hero worshipping myths about a man and his horse. My source material came from the abundant stereotypes that have been perpetuated for generations in film, fiction, photography, painting and folklore. In all of this work I kept thinking about the imagined and real songs that might play side by side with my drawings. I also mulled the powerful way music has been used, for example, to sell the romance and mystique of the lonely hard bitten man on the plains.
Campfire tunes might tell the tale of the lonely rider or lost dreams but also, of love. A cowboy song could be a story of woe, work and hardship, rooted in the real and heartfelt, a love of people, land or property and what has come before. I believe in and indulge in this music, because while some of it is sappy and exaggerates our histories, it also is part part of our collective folklore, however flawed or one sided. Like these tunes, many of my projects are wrapped up in a battle with nostalgia, and a deep romance with the past. This gauzy view of history is dangerous and music and art more broadly, are particularly good at indulging in it. So I try to sever and chop at that inclination, mostly by articulating the misguided goals and actions of the humans who populate these landscapes and situations.
This, in the end, often feels like the purpose of my various projects: how do we account for the way in which we idolize those and that which has come before us, yet balance that with the sheer enormity of our own propensity for stupidity and cruelty? I don’t have an answer but I do think it is our job, collectively, to question history and our subjective, disagreeable versions of it. Somewhere in there are shreds of truth. For “Failed Ballads” I envisioned a nostalgic space occupied by a character who tried, without skill or forethought, to convince an “other” of his prowess, conviction and trustworthiness.
I consistently attempted to undercut him, making his instruments farcical or puppet-like, making his situation absurd or problematic and promoting the enormity and beauty of the landscapes around him. There is genuine self-portraiture here, I am trying to write love songs. I’m not sure it is working, but they are loud.