vrijdag 8 april 2016

Interview with singer/songwriter Ian Fisher

Interview by Wout de Natris

© WoNo Magazine 2016

Not all readers may be familiar with you. How would you like to introduce yourself?
I’m a traveling songwriter.  I’m from a small town in the middle of the US and I’ve spent my entire adult life in Europe.  My musical style makes me sound American and my lyrics make me sound European.
The music you play is generally called Americana. You live in Europe. Is it easier or more difficult for you to write and play Americana now you live here in Europe?
It’s easier to romanticize things when they’re far away.  I rediscovered my love of American country music as an immigrant in Europe.  I use the spirit of those songs as a security blanket and a way for me to feel at home wherever I go.  That being said, I often feel like it’s easier to write this kind of music in Europe.  Sometimes it’s hard to play it there though.  Many European listeners still pigeonhole the entire genre.  When they hear the title “country music” they instantly think of cowboys and cliché bullshit.  It’s hard to push listeners beyond that, but when you do it’s a beautiful thing.
What were your reasons to relocate and have you found what you were looking for?
I had many reasons, but, funny enough, I think the main one was urban planning.  I just like the average European city more than the average American city.  European cities tend to be more livable.  Life takes place on the streets, in parks, in cafes, etc… In the average American city life takes place in your car.  That’s not really living for me.

You grew up in the country. Now you live in a city of millions. What do you prefer and why?
I prefer living in Vienna.  I’m there more than I am in Berlin and more than I’m in Missouri.  I like it there because it’s a very compact city and the countryside is close.  Berlin is just too stretched out.  Everything is far away.  In Vienna, you can experience a lot of culture around every little corner and then jump on a tram and be up in the hills looking down on it all in twenty minutes.  I like the countryside and the friendly mid-western people back in Missouri, but there’s not a lot of culture to keep me there.  It’s pretty conservative.
The music you play in a way is very traditional. Who were the artists that influenced you and in what way?
Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie were big influences on the way I play guitar.  Willie Nelson and Hank Williams influenced my songwriting.  Gillian Welch, Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell and Edith Piaf influence my soul.
Were you raised on country style music or did this happen somewhere along the way?
I was really into 90’s pop country when I was a kid, but I lost touch with it as I got older.  I reconnected with it when I moved to Europe.  Gillian Welch is who reignited my love for it.
Your album is called ‘Nero’. This sounds like burning bridges, a theme that is addressed in ‘Too Bad’ as well. Are you a person to burn his bridges behind him and start anew?
I use this lifestyle as a justification for a lot of things.  One of them is leaving people, places, and situations behind.  That means I don’t have to burn a lot of bridges.  I just leave them to rot behind me and never cross them again.
There are also some hints at vengeance on ‘Nero’. What makes the theme so attractive to sing about?
I like that question.  Maybe vengeance is tied to a desire for justice.  If we have faith in humanity, which is something that I often wish I had more of, then maybe all of us have a deep desire for justice.  But justice comes in so many forms and is distorted by the ego and group affiliation.  What is justice for you may be unjust for me.  Now I’m rambling… Maybe everyone feels like they’ve been treated unjustly by someone else, by themselves, or just by fate.  Everyone has a wrong to right.  Everyone can relate to that.

The almost upbeat song ‘Almost Darling’ tells us that you have changed. It touches on the same emotions that Gene Clark could touch upon for me. What inspired you to write this song?
There’s a very personal story behind “Almost Darlin’” that I’m not going to put into writing.  But, in a nutshell, it was about a time when I got too close to a person who I should’ve kept at a distance.

Is there a typical way an Ian Fisher song comes into existence?

You made ‘Nero’ with a set of musicians and producer Fabian Kalker. Does the instrumentation and harmonies of a song grow in the studio or do you have a finelined idea before you start recording?
I had been playing the majority of the songs from the album at concerts for a year or two leading up to the recording of the album.  Those which I had played frequently were quite established.  Those that were new were very much shaped by our time in the studio.  On a more basic level, a lot of the keys and tempos changed in the recording process.  We lowered almost every song by a half or whole step and slowed everything down.  If we would have recorded an album full of live versions, then it would have been a lot faster and higher.
You chose to work with Snowstar Records for ‘Nero’. How did this collaboration come about?
I met Cedric Muyres, the founder of Snowstar Records, years ago while on tour with my old friends from the Dutch/Finnish band, Town of Saints.  We stayed in touch, became friends, and decided to start working together.  Easy as that.

‘Just Like A Stranger’ is a song, besides reminding me of Damian Rice, is about dislocation, something everyone who moved in his life can relate to. How is this for you? Do we have to take the lyrics literally?
I’m glad I moved away, but there are two sides to every coin.  This lifestyle can be pretty alienating at times.  It can even alienate you from the people with whom you grew up.  It’s happened to me several times that people in my home town have asked me what country I’m from.  That’s a strange feeling.  I wrote “Just Like a Stranger” in my hometown of Ste. Genevieve.  Every word is true.

‘Nero’ is the first album, solely, under your own name. How did this “fresh start” come about?
I changed it because got tired of answering questions about my band name in interviews.

Finally. What song did you hear on that “rambler’s radio”?
It’s the title of the song.  Listen to it again and think about it.

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