Local Current Blog

112 words from Bonnie “Prince” Billy

Will Oldham—more frequently known by the stage name Bonnie “Prince” Billy—is a singer-songwriter from Kentucky. Oldham will be playing with the Bitchin Bajas on Monday, December 16 at the Cedar Cultural Center, promoting the new self-titled Bonnie “Prince” Billy album (above); the album is available for sale at Oldham’s shows, but won’t be widely available until 2014. (A limited number of copies are available on vinyl at Treehouse Records.)

Known for his musical introspection, Oldham wasn’t particularly voluble when we spoke by phone in advance of the upcoming show. Still, he answered my questions and did at least promise that the Cedar gig will make for “a good night of music.”

So, let’s start this interview off with an easy question: What have you been up to lately?

Playing live shows, preparing for other live shows, doing some recording. I hope to make money now and make money in the future and meet nice people doing it.

Your music has been considered part of many different genres. Is there a particular genre that you personally identify with most?

What would you classify it as?

Well, after listening to some of your stuff, I’d agree with the people who said it’s a type of alternative, indie style.

And what exactly is that? I guess if there was a formula you could fit into, I would.

You’ll be playing in Minneapolis on December 16. Have you been to the city before? 

A couple of times.

You’re playing at the Cedar Cultural Center. Have you been to the Cedar before?

Nope. Have you?

I haven’t, but I’ve heard that it’s a more intimate venue. Do you prefer the more intimate settings?

I guess I prefer places where I can make eye contact with the audience.

How do you feel about the Minneapolis music scene?

I’ve only ever passed through, so I’ve never gotten to know the music scene.

So, you’re playing with the Bitchin’ Bajas on the 16th. Can you tell me a little bit about them?

I probably couldn’t tell you anything you couldn’t learn over the Internet.

I’m assuming you chose to play with them, correct? 

Yes, ma’am.

Could you tell me why?

I thought it would make a good night of music.

Meagan Pittelko is a student at Concordia College.

  • Rolo McFlurry

    oh boy

  • Jason

    This was hard to read, and I think Oldham is well aware that his interviewer knows little to nothing about him, his music, or The Cedar. What was the goal of this interview and why do you think it turned out the way it did?

  • Not every Will Oldham interview will turn out like this: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/01/05/090105fa_fact_sanneh?currentPage=all But it’s worth checking out.

    Everyone undertaking a conversation with such a fantastic and unusual person should do a good bit of research before getting on the phone. You should be able to find out whether or not he’s been to Minneapolis pretty easily with some internet research. Then you can skip straight to questions about the movies he’s been in, his facial hair, the evocative lyrics he’s written, where he lives, and the stuff not yet on the web. What made you want to talk to him in the first place? Don’t underestimate how helpful publicists can be to brainstorm good discussion topics, and they’ll definitely know ways to get their clients talking. I think Will was trying to give you an opening with the response about eye contact, and now I’m curious about what is going on in his head while he’s locking eyes with his fans.

    Even if someone doesn’t seem “particularly voluble,” it’s our job as interviewers to make our interview subjects as comfortable as we can. Even if you have time to “cram” for an interview for 20 minutes beforehand, it will always help. Well-researched questions that they aren’t expecting — but are excited to answer — are the ideal. Best of luck with the next one!

    • Jason

      But instead of the headline saying “Rookie Writer Fails At Interviewing Persnickety Underground Musician” the writer or editor chose to put the blame on Oldham, straight away in the headline. Pretty much everything is wrong with this interview. I can’t imagine why it was published.

      • Jason

        With a budget of $85 million in 2013 I expect a little better than this from MPR and The Current.

        • tjknight

          A steal at any price!