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Arthur Godfrey

A Conversation with Arthur Godfrey

Puremusic: So let's get right to the subject of Broken Wings, the recent record, and let's talk about what led up to it and how it came about, all that background stuff.

Arthur Godfrey: There's a lot that led up to this point, I suppose--from five years ago, when I left the Post Office in Maine and then California, to here on the phone with you in Nashville. And you and I went through that whole NYC piece with powerful artists, and tried to chase down an elusive record deal that summer. [In the end, the quote from the interested A&R person was something like "...we like this a lot and what he's got going, but we already signed our guy in this slot this year--his name's Ray LaMontagne."]

And I was at a pocket in my life where I had worked 30 years, and some peers were taking notice of my music, and I had paused--I thought I had something to say, but I really didn't know what was going on in the grand scheme of things. And when we were in the City that time, and I had got lucky and won a couple of John Lennon awards and so forth, and was getting some press, getting some radio play, getting to talk to folks like you, that led up to me running around to some different conventions, which led me to having Sean [Penn] in that room that one night, and sort of propelled things to a point that you almost had to think, wow, man, I might actually be able to do this for a living. Because I never really intended to, I didn't really know what I wanted to do. But I remember when we were in New York one night, and he asked me, "What are you going to do if you get famous?"--and dead serious. And I didn't have an answer.

PM: Right.

AG: And I'm being right up front and personal.

PM: Yeah.

AG: You know what? I think that same night I knew that any type of fan game in this was not going to be for me. I honestly think about six months after that I had been away from my three daughters a lot in the last three to four years up to that point when I got asked that question. And it's funny that about a month after that, my daughters were actually coming to me asking me where I was because I wasn't as available for them. I knew then that my attitude, my turnaround in life had started, and that music was a phenomenal part of it, and it was the catalyst that got me really to look at myself and to try to find out who I was, my identity. And that doesn't mean that I didn't know that I worked for the post office for 20 years, and I worked in--

PM: It was a job, after all, not an identity, right.

AG: It's the walk of life. And I'm not trying to make this a hocus pocus religious-bent chat here... I'd put out a record every two years since 2000, and this really started on my turnaround back to--I visualize it as we're born into this pure circle, there's three of them: we have our little circle, our subconscious where all of our good and bad experiences are, where we go to contemplate decisions and so forth. And the third one is our consciousness--and as best as I can humanly be, I'm here right with you right now. And when I say a "turnaround," I was able to center enough on the things that were important in my life, and let the things go that really weren't.

PM: How did the process begin of gathering songs for this record, once you got in the mood to make a record again?

AG: It started with the title song, "Broken Wings." The first verse is about my daughters. I just sort of carried that first verse around with me and would just sing it. But right away, as soon as that song took shape, I went and addressed my dad and my brother and sister and my mother, myself and my grandchild. And it was the first song that I did for the album, and it was just--how can I say, Frank--I just knew it was going to be the essence of it.

PM: Kind of a defining moment and a defining song, yeah.

AG: Well, all of my records are sort of concept or theme records, if you will. But I knew this was going to be a record about family. When I wrote "Broken Wings," I started to look at some of my own prejudices, the things that made me uncomfortable about race and religion and war and the family. And we address the homeless here, the impaired.

PM: So yeah, kind of the essential, gritty human issues.


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