HomeInterviewsLanghorne Slim on Bucket Lists, Disconnection, & Sea.Hear.Now

Langhorne Slim on Bucket Lists, Disconnection, & Sea.Hear.Now

Langhorne Slim
Photo Credit: Harvey K. Robinson

One of the greatest things about music festivals is discovery. The gargantuan line-ups are filled with names you’ve never heard of before, or bands you might recognize the name, but couldn’t place their music if your life depended on it.

For this writer, Langhorne Slim is a band I’ve heard about for the last decade but for some reason, just never checked out. After seeing their name attached to this weekend’s Sea.Hear.Now Festival, I realize that I’ve been doing it wrong for the last 10 years of my life.

Langhorne Slim’s sound can be rooted in Americana, folk, and old school country. But that’s not the selling point of his music — it’s the lyrics. The introspective, thought-provoking, and evocative wordplay he incorporates into each tune is staggeringly wonderful.

Recently, I caught up with Slim to talk about a bucket list moment, the thoughts that went into his most recent record, and his involvement in this weekend’s festival.

I know you’re a Nashville guy, and you just played the legendary Ryman Theater. How cool was that?

It’s one of those dreams come true. I never really had a bucket list in my career and my life, but I guess subconsciously there’s a few of them and that was definitely one of them. Opening for a John Prine recently was one too. So to do both of them in the course of a month was a surreal and, and super special.

That’s awesome. That is a huge honor to be playing with John Prine. How did that one come about?

I don’t know how these things exactly come about. But, I let it be known to my booking agent, and the people that I work with that if I could do a one thing this year, it would be to open up for the great John Prine. He’s touring his butt so he’s getting a lot of a younger artists. Not that I’m young. The call came in and I was a ecstatic about it. I got to do one show with him and just got a call a couple of weeks ago that I’m going to do two more.

It’s an incredible honor and like I said, it’s sort of surreal to be standing on the side of the stage and watching him play for a few thousand people. I was real nervous for that one, like I am all my show, and I’m sure I will be for the ones coming up. He was just such a humble kind, energetic cat.

Based off what you were saying, you’ve been doing this well over 10 years. But you say you still have nerves at all your shows. After all these years gigs aren’t just another day at the office? Is this due to being excited, or nervous about your performance? 

It’s all of those things. I’m always terrified leading into a show. It’s almost as though I forget it’s what I do for a living. Then when I walk into that bar, that theater and when people start coming in, it all starts to dissipate and I feel at home. I think it’s healthy.

I think if some people do it for a long time they don’t get nervous. But if you are someone like me who has not rid themselves of those nerves — it becomes a matter of how you dance with it, and then refine it over the course of your career.

There’s also a great beauty and freedom in it. For me it’s a nightly experiment in facing a fear by just jumping in. I find great elation in that. But, leading into the show the nerves are in the belly, the butterflies are there. So I just try to dig in and make, those nerves my friends.

On your last record, Lost at Last Vol. 1, you really took a different approach not only in in the recording of the album, but of how you toward and how you promoted it. Can you tell me into this process, and why you decided to jump into it after releasing your 2015 record, The Spirit Moves?

I didn’t have all the songs, but I had the desire to record. I’m proud of The Spirit Moves because I got something out of me that needed to come out for that record. But there was something that I had in me for a long time that I hadn’t been addressing creatively or in the recording process. I wanted something stripped down. I wouldn’t say sloppy, but something that wasn’t well-rehearsed or polished.

I wanted it to be people in my band, and some friends forming one big band, and learning the songs over the course of five days, and then hitting record. Initially, I wanted to invite some friends to my house, get an old reel-to-reel recorder set up it in my living room, and just push play. But, it became such an undertaking that we went out to Simpson Beach to this amazing studio there.

It was just something that I felt I needed. I think if you do this kind of thing or are an artist in any way, there’s a voice in our bellies, in our souls and our brains that the knows what you need to do. It has nothing to do with trying to get a radio hit. It has nothing to do with how many records you might sell. Sure, these are all things that I would love to have. Yet, I believe that my greatest strength and that quote unquote successes that I’ve had in my career have always come from when I follow that animalistic instinct.  

I’ve seen in interviews you’ve done that the central themes of the record are like disconnection  and the strive for perfection. Why chose those themes?

I think that a big part of our societal conditioning is off base and even tragic in ways. I think just to try to simplify it as much “go to school to get a job that makes enough money to retire from that job and then go into your golden years and then die.” That’s never appealed to me.  I am interested and intrigued to try to find my own voice and my own way. Also to realize that anybody that might pretend that they’ve got it figured out, is probably full of shit. I guess the theme that runs through my head a lot. I read this quote from Miles Davis, something like it can take a lifetime/long time to find your own voice. I think that that is true no matter what you’re doing it can be challenging to strive to find that your own unique voice.

You also didn’t tour right after the record came out. You waited a few months, and then hit the road. Did that strategy work?

I’ve been touring non-stop for almost 20 years. Like I said before, there’s a model that’s been in place that a lot follow. I saw what I found to be flaws in that model. I’m very fortunate to have an audience that listened to the record. So it was important to me that instead of just getting out there before anybody could even hear it, to let it simmer for a little bit. This way anybody that would be drawn to it or connect to it can actually hear it and then go see the tour.

Also, I didn’t want to feel exhausted. I’m touring three months into the release of the record and then touring six months or a year or two years to support the record. I wanted to get the music out there. That’s what it is most important to me. More important to how many records I sell. And I’m not trying to act cool. I still would love to sell a lot of records and for a lot of people to hear this music.

Did it work in your opinion?

Absolutely. It worked 100 percent. It felt like when I did go on tour and I was playing the new songs, the audience was singing along with some of them the same way that they do with songs that are 10 years old. I found that to be very satisfying because you didn’t have to convince people like a lot of bands do when they’re playing new music.

A lot of bands seem to have to convince people to get into new music when they play live.

I always bring out the new songs as soon as I can. If I wrote a song in the dressing room, I would play it that night. I never hold stuff back. I mean we all want to go and we want to hear the sounds that we’re familiar with and that are hit. I just wanted to perform it sort of as one on piece where I was going to play some of the older music too, but I was definitely very hungry. 

I saw recently a picture of you at Bonaroo performing Danny Clinch. Tell me how you got involved in Sea.Hear.Now and your relationship with Danny.

Danny’s a staggeringly cool, nice and humble guy. He’s the kind of guy who totally could be the opposite, but there’s no hierarchy with him. I think he loves people. He’s drawn to the music that he’s drawn to it. It doesn’t necessarily matter if it’s a Bruce Springsteen or Pearl Jam or me or, or somebody that nobody’s ever heard. He follows his eye and his soul to what he’s attracted to.

[He first met Clinch…] I happened to be at Bonnaroo because I was on tour, was seeing my first tour with a group called the Trachtenburg Family Sideshow Players and I wasn’t scheduled to play. I was walking around in a powder blue polyester suit I think that I got from my grandfather. I was backstage just sort of blown away. And Danny, I didn’t know who he was at the time, walked up to me and said, ‘Are you an artist at the festival?’ And then I said, no, I’m not exactly, but he told me to stop by his booth anyway.He loved my hat, and my suit.  I went by and we hit it off and he took that picture, which is one of my favorite pictures that anybody’s taken on me. And then discovered who he was. I’ve gotten to meet a few people like that  are just so coming from the right place to place of love.

How’d it feel to be reached out to be part of not only the first year now, but basically this is Danny’s hometown show?

It’s an honor to be asked and it’s exciting because I have no doubt it’s gonna be awesome. I know that where he’s coming from — the sweet spot, the a place of love. I’m sure what he and his crew are building is going to be amazing. And so I’m super psyched to come and play it. There’s a bunch of friends that are on the festival, so it feels like a Newport Folk Festival which is pretty much my favorite place in the world to play. It feels almost like an offshoot of Newport only Jersey style, which is a, which is super cool.

Langhorne Slim & The Lost at Last Band will perform at the Sea.Hear.Now Music Festival on Sunday September 30 at the Park Stage at 4 p.m. For tickets, click here.

Bill Bodkin
Bill Bodkinhttps://thepopbreak.com
Bill Bodkin is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break, and most importantly a husband, and father. Ol' Graybeard writes way too much about wrestling, jam bands, Asbury Park music, HBO shows, and can often be seen under his season DJ alias, DJ Father Christmas. He is the co-host of the Socially Distanced Podcast (w/Al Mannarino) which drops weekly on Apple, Google, Anchor & Spotify. He is the co-host of the monthly podcasts -- Anchored in Asbury, TV Break and Bill vs. The MCU.

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