“Brace The Wave,” Lou Barlow’s first solo album since 2009, is out this week but he still hasn’t played it for anyone besides his label, at least as of the time of this interview, 10 days before the September 4 release date. “I can’t sit in the same room and play my music to anybody,” he says, despite the fact that he’s about to go on a cross-country tour promoting it.
Lou Barlow: ‘Just about making music’
Back and forth
Barlow hasn’t been being lazy the past six years. He’s been keeping busy with his bands Dinosaur Jr. and Sebadoh, both of which will start working on new albums soon, he says. And while he loves to play in a band, Barlow says he was itching to play solo again and thinks the very act of going back and forth between the two makes him better at both.
Making it look easy
It only took him six days in the studio to complete the album. “It’s easy,” Barlow says of crafting songs. “It’s so easy for me that it’s hard for me to imagine that everybody can’t do it. I’ve actually struggled a lot over the years recognizing that it’s something that’s a talent.” Barlow says melodies and harmonies come to him naturally, or a lyric and a melody come to him that he builds upon.
Lyrics are a little trickier. “I probably spend too much time on them,” Barlow says. “It’s important to me that the lyrics mean something to me because it makes them easier to remember rather than just pulling nonsense out of the air or try to rhyme something.” That’s one of the reasons why he doesn’t like to play his songs for people he knows.
A time of transition
For the past 17 years Barlow has been living in California, but he recently moved back to his Massachusetts hometown with his kids and ex-wife, in close proximity to his parents, sister and fellow Dinosaur Jr. members. “I just thought it was necessary to center myself and the kids and get as much support as possible so we can hive out this next period of our lives and have our kids grow up,” he says.
It would be easy to assume that his new song “Moving” is about this very process, but Barlow explains that the song is less literal than that. “I’m talking about packing up things in my mind,” he says. “Thinking things like, ‘OK well, this isn’t going to work out. I guess I have to move on.’” Sounds like he’s about ready for that next phase.
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