Conor Oberst's New Morning: Bright Eyes Hits Nashville for Solo LP

After slowing down and getting married, an older, wiser Oberst heads back to the studio

Conor Oberst in Nashville, Tennessee.
David McClister
January 31, 2014 11:05 AM ET

Conor Oberst gets carded as he enters an East Nashville bar on a recent Monday night, but at 33, he doesn't feel like a kid anymore: After an insanely prolific 15-year run in which he played in half a dozen different bands and wrote hundreds of songs, Oberst slowed down, opened a bar in his native Omaha, Nebraska, and in 2010 quietly married his girlfriend, whom he'd met in Mexico. "She's a reason to go home," he says, digging into a sausage pizza (he recently started eating meat again). "I've been writing songs since I was fucking 13 years old. So much of my younger life was devoted to endless tours and a frantic need to create. But maybe I don't need to chase every ambition."

Conor Oberst talks about his 'Inside Llewyn Davis' audition

Oberst is in Nashville finishing up a country-flavored solo album, produced by Jonathan Wilson (Dawes, Father John Misty). Many of the songs deal with settling down and finding solace after emotional turmoil. "I'm gonna work for my sanity, give it everything I got," he sings on "Time Forgot," which features gorgeous harmonies from Swedish sister duo First Aid Kit, who sing throughout the LP. "I don't relate to a lot of my earlier songs," Oberst says. "They were extremely verbose. That might be cathartic when you're doing it, but it doesn't necessarily hold up." Around the time Bright Eyes were touring for 2011's The People's Key, Oberst spent six months writing a screenplay starring the Monsters of Folk, the group he formed with Jim James and others (Oberst describes the film as "an allegory about how the Internet is destroying humanity"). After that fizzled, he began work with Wilson, who adds jammy, Garcia-ish flourishes throughout the album. "I tried to work with some big-name producers," says Oberst. "And it was like, 'This dude doesn't know shit from shit.'"

Oberst is older and wiser, but his outlook isn't exactly Zen: Among other targets, he hates social media: "I don't know if it makes me an asshole to not want to talk to my fans. But I'm not going to sit on a fucking computer and try to talk to some fucking 16-year-old in wherever-the-fuck." He takes a sip of pinot noir. "I try to remind myself to be grateful. I'm not a fucking superstar. I'm not a bazillionaire. I get to do my shit, and for the most part people leave me alone. And that's the way I want it."

This story is from the February 13th, 2014 issue of Rolling Stone

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories


The Commodores | 1984

The year after soul legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson died, songwriter Dennis Lambert asked members of the Commodores to give him a tape of ideas. "And the one from Walter Orange has this wonderful bass line," said co-writer Franne Golde. "Plus the lyric, 'Marvin, he was a friend of mine' ... Within 10 minutes, we had decided it should be something like a modern R&B version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven,' and I just said, 'Nightshift.'" This tribute to the recently deceased musicians was the band's only hit without Lionel Richie, who had left for a solo career.

More Song Stories entries »