What are you doing with your unexpected time at home?
I’ve been at home with my 6-year-old daughter. Our lockdown world has been bounded by our home and my studio, two streets away. It’s my new studio and I only just got it before the lockdown began, so I’ve been unpacking, setting up instruments and speakers, hanging pictures, sticking stuff on the walls — lots of black and white photos for some reason: Brian Jones, Dennis Hopper, Andy Warhol & The Factory. These are the cats who’re inspiring me right now.
And working on my own music, making future Waterboys albums. That’s afternoons and late-night when my daughter’s in bed. In the mornings, I do schoolwork with her — bit of math, reading, working with words — and we go to the back garden for her PE time.
I also have to be her model for nail varnish and make-up experiments and general jobbing actor in all her imaginative games. We’ve also been rearranging her bedroom, and like all kids do, she’s earnestly teaching me to do all the things I learned when I was her age. We have a lot of fun. I love getting to be with her all day every day, which hasn’t happened since she was very small — because of course she’s been at school or kindergarten now for four years. So for me, the silver lining to the lockdown is pretty good.
I’m also cooking and cleaning the house, maintaining the system of our lives, doing FaceTimes with her mum, who lives close by (and who has her this week, which means I’m now on my own for seven days, filling the extra empty spaces with musical work and reading); my mother, who’s in Scotland; pals including my band members; and my wife and little boy who are in Tokyo until May. That’s if they can get back. Who knows what the travel situation will be at that time?
What music do you turn to in times of crisis for solace and comfort, and why?
I’ve been playing a lot of Leon Russell; rediscovered that ol’ hog in a big way. I like music with a lot of soul and community in it, especially at a time like this. I play ’50s jazz. And I like Hiss Golden Messenger — their Hallelujah Anyhow is the current record on the turntable — and my daughter digs it.
I also notice the stuff she listens to. She’s crazy for the Haschak Sisters and the Gem Sisters. I like them, too. She watches their videos on YouTube and she’s just got her first MP3 player (ordered online, delivered by post), and so we’ve been getting their songs on that.
What about books or films?
Been watching children’s movies with my daughter. The Croods, funny caveman animation movie, from a few years ago, and some I remember from my childhood: The Lovebug, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, 101 Dalmations. Elf is up next when I have her back next week.
I don’t often watch films for myself, though I did watch Dennis Hopper’s final film, The Last Film Festival, a few nights ago. That was fun, and great to see the old cat still handsome and sparkling in his 70s, just before he passed away.
Books… I’m reading Blake Gopnik’s massive biography of Andy Warhol, WARHOL. It’s fantastic. For spiritual sustenance I’m re-reading The House Of Fulfillment by L. Adams Beck, a novel from the Twenties, set in the Himalayas. Every page is full of grace.
Anything else you want to say to your fans right now?
I’m lucky. I have enough money that the loss of a summer of shows, while impactful, isn’t going to put me on the street. I’m grateful for that. Millions of people are adversely affected by this in terms of their earnings and livelihoods. Enterprises, businesses, even whole countries could go under.
And soon I suspect everyone is going to know someone who has died from the virus — I do already. The whole world situation is precarious. I hope and trust that the center will hold, as WB Yeats might say. But I’m also watching.
The coronavirus shows up all our habits, social attitudes, core beliefs, systems and societies in new and unexpected lights. It shows up our leaders, too — we can see ever more clearly who they are: the authentic and the charlatans.
We all have to keep safe and protect those we love, and do what is right for the whole community (local, national, planetary) — and there is also a lot to be observed and learned. That’s part of our responsibility here. When we get to other side, whenever and however that may be, there is much we can and should change, using what we’ve learned.