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Paul Brainard


A Conversation with Willy Vlautin (continued)

PM: I really love the soundtrack that you and your steel player extraordinaire, Paul Brainard, did for Northline.

WV: Yeah, me too. I'm a huge fan of his.

PM: He's unbelievable.

WV: A lot of times I just sit down and write songs that I think he would sound good on.

PM: [laughs]

WV: So a lot of those melodies and stuff I just came up with for him.

PM: Wow!

WV: Because I've always been a big fan of instrumental music and pedal steel kind of atmospheric stuff. I guess that's why I've always been a fan of bands like Calexico, because they're so great instrumentally at creating a mood, and so have the feeling of place to them. That's all I was trying to do with Northline is--I mean, I guess really what I wanted to do was to have the same feel that Paris, Texas has as a sound track. When I listen to the Paris, Texas soundtrack, I just can't help but think about Harry Dean Stanton--regardless of the spoken word part in it, which I think is amazing. But if you take that out of the soundtrack, it still makes me always think of Harry Dean Stanton and his jealousy, and his wife and his boy. And I haven't seen that movie in 15 years.

PM: Wow.

WV: So I wanted to do the same thing. Maybe if you like the soundtrack, and it became a record you'd go back to once in a while over the years, maybe when you listen to it you'd still think about the girl, Allison, and Dan Mahony in Northline. So that's why I did it. And they were nice enough--a few of the publishers have done it, the English and the U.S. publishers have done it, and Spain did it. Romania is going to put the soundtrack in--and then some places aren't doing it.

PM: Yeah, because it was really groundbreaking to include it in the book itself. That was totally cool.

WV: Yeah, I was so relieved, because I just gave it to them. I just said, "I don't want to make this difficult for you at all, you can just take it, and please put it with it." And they did, so I'm really grateful. I think it turned out pretty good. And I had a really fun time with the soundtrack, I didn't have to hear my voice, and I didn't have to worry about lyrics--

PM: [laughs] Yeah, it's a real relief.

WV: --and stuff like that. So it's one of my favorite things I've done because of that.

PM: Yeah, it's so nice to go instrumental. I love that, too. And there's no instrument that does it like pedal steel.

WV: Yeah, if you're into that kind of vibe. Paul Brainard, he can kill you. He's really good. We had a good time. He's really a busy player, and we tour a lot. And sometimes we don't tour with him, so I don't see him as much as I'd like to.

PM: Who else does he like to go out with?

WV: Oh, he's been out with the Sadies and--

PM: Oh, really? One of my favorite bands.

WV: Oh, shit, those three together are like brothers, and Paul was mindblowing. I was so excited when he toured with them, because, like you, they're one of my favorites.

PM: Oh, yeah, crazy about that.

WV: And those guys can really play guitar.

PM: Like demons.

WV: Yeah, so you put like three of those guys together... Paul toured with them for a while. He's done tours with Alejandro Escovedo. Then he does a lot of studio stuff. A lot of the real grueling tours with Richmond Fontaine he won't do.

PM: Right.

WV: But he did most of the stuff for Thirteen Cities.

PM: Right. That's a great record. Wow.

WV: Oh, neat, thanks. We tried really hard on that one.

PM: That's a really epic release, Thirteen Cities. That's an incredibly ambitious record.

WV: Well, thanks for saying that. I did really want to make a good record, and I wanted to make my desert/southwest record.

PM: Right.

WV: And then it was lucky for me as a fan because I got to hang out with Joey Burns of Calexico, and Jacob Valenzuela of Calexico played on the record. That was the first time we'd ever recorded out of Oregon, so it was pretty fun all the way around.

PM: We're truly remiss in not having done something with Calexico by this time. They're an awesome unit. We've got to get up with them.

WV: Yeah, I love them. I just saw them, they came through town on Saturday night. They're just amazing. John Convertino, the drummer, is really great. They're still one of those bands that I buy all their stuff and get their T-shirts and shit like that.

[laughter]

WV: I'm still a big fan.

PM: It's fun to be a fan.

WV: Oh, shoot, yeah.

PM: Yeah, I'll always be a fan.

WV: It really is fun. People are crazy when they don't become a fan of something, because you get a lot of enjoyment, even if you have to force yourself to get excited, eventually you start believing it yourself.

Yeah, I saw Calexico and had a great time. They're really an amazing group of musicians, and very nice people.

PM: Have you done any recording with the Sadies?

WV: No. I talked to Dallas a couple of times. Shit, he lives in Toronto and I lived in Portland. And I'm really very shy about my music, that's one reason I've stuck with my band so long is they're my friends, and they kind of take care of me as far as my confidence problems. As much as I'd like to work with a guy like Dallas Good, it wrecks my nerves just thinking about it.

PM: Isn't that something? It never ceases to amaze me how some of the most talented guys will feel that way about themselves. It's just how it is.

WV: [laughs] Well, even semi-talented guys like me feel that way too.

PM: [laughs]

WV: Yeah, I don't know, man, it's just something I've always kind of battled with. That's why I like writing so much, because it's solitary, and it takes so long, and you can keep working on stuff and messing around with it until it's right.

PM: Well, it's fantastic.

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