Statistically speaking, for a lot of younger people who are going to be participating in #iVoted, this is going to be a new experience. Why is it important to be thinking ahead to the midterm elections and then going out to vote on November 6th?
Getting involved in the midterms and getting the people in-office to represent us on that level is just as powerful, if not more powerful, than that one vote that we do every four years for the presidential election.
You’re right. A lot of the younger voters especially don’t even really understand that. I certainly don’t profess to understand all the ins and outs of how our government is run, but I’m learning more and I think that we have to encourage people to understand the process more and to get involved—local elections, state elections, our congressional representatives, all of that. People need to know that they have a voice in making those decisions.
Are there any particular musicians or artists, past or present, that you admire when it comes to political activism and engagement?
That’s a good question. I think that certainly Willie Nelson and Neil Young. We’ve played Farm Aid and it was this great experience. Certainly if you look back, John Lennon’s is a big inspiration as far as just making the connection between pop music and a political passion and finding a way to marry those things. I think he certainly stands as one of the giants of that.
You mentioned Farm Aid and how you guys played that [in 2009]. Tell me a little bit more about that experience. It seems like the energy there is just so fantastic.
One thing that was pretty amazing about that experience was that was the first time we met Barack Obama. He introduced us onstage, actually. He was still senator, he hadn’t announced that he was gonna run at that point. So that was an incredible experience just feeling that energy of people coming together for a common cause, for common values, and putting that energy into the universe. It’s just really, really inspirational and it’s a great memory. And I think we did it again, we also did it in 2009, I believe. I’m proud to be part of that movement and to be part of a band that’s thought of in that arena.
What was that like, meeting Barack Obama and especially so early in his tenure?
It was pretty amazing, even just being around him for a few minutes. He came to our dressing room to meet us and say hello before our set and before he introduced us. Just being around him for a little bit, I knew he was gonna do big things. There was just no doubt about it. I kind of walked away from that experience thinking, “That guy’s gonna be president.” [Laughs]
That’s awesome. Wilco is currently on a bit of a touring hiatus. Other than this political activism, how are you spending your time? Tell me about what you’re doing with your 2018.
2018 I think is already shaping up to be a pretty busy year. I have some artists—some that need producing and some artists that I’m gonna continue to work with. There’s an album coming out—the digital version came out back in September, but an expanded vinyl version is coming out in the spring—of an artist named Linda Perhacs that I co-produced with another producer named Fernando Perdomo. And we also produced a record with Linda Perhacs called I’m a Harmony. I’m really proud of that and happy to see it come out.
I’m working with my band Autumn Defense. Hopefully. we’re gonna be working on some new music, maybe doing a little bit of touring with that band. I moved to Nashville a couple of years ago, so it’s been great to be part of the Nashville musical community, which is very vibrant right now. So yeah, I’m just kind of doing all the things that I do. A lot of studio time.
Have you noticed any big differences from moving from Chicago to Nashville? Have you found any new inspirations there?
Yeah, well, it’s kind of constant inspiration here. There’s just music everywhere. I’ve been sort of joking about it, but it’s really a truth that I’ve gotten two really great studio gigs by just running into people at the grocery store here. I ran into Robyn Hitchcock, who I’m a big fan of, and we’ve become friends. I worked with him on his last record, mostly because I kept running into him at the Whole Foods store here and he asked me to come over and sing on his record, which came out this past year.
And then a duo called the Milk Carton Kids. Great, great artists. Kenneth [Pattengale] from that band lives here in Nashville and I ran into him at the same grocery store and in that conversation he invited me to play on their new record. So I just gotta start hanging out at the grocery store every day, I think.