Music

20 Questions: JD Souther

Photo: Jeremy Cowart

The man who helped create monster hits for the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt takes them back on his latest album, and along the way reveals why he wishes to live in multiple universes at once . . .

JD Souther has had one of the more remarkable songwriting careers in recent memory.

After all, even with his numerous solo successes ("You're Only Lonely", his James Taylor collaboration "Her Town Too"), Souther has had a hand in crafting numerous hits for the Eagles, produced notable songs by Linda Ronstadt, and even sang backup on Christopher Cross' Grammy-winning smash of a debut album. Now, following the success of his long-in-the-works 2008 effort If The World Was You, Souther is now back with one of his most reflective and personal albums to date: the lovely, muted, Natural History, wherein he re-records several of those hits that he helped other artists make so popular in the first place.

To help celebrate its release, Souther stopped by to answer PopMatters' 20 Questions, here revealing a love dogs, a penchant for borrowing airplanes, and how Stephen Hawking's books jokingly make him cry . . .

* * *

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

I recently reread Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and felt again the abject sorrow for what white people have done to Native Americans. Also, any writing about the death or endangerment of a beloved dog breaks my heart (example: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein or Nop's Trials by Donald McCaig). Also Stephen Hawking's books make me cry because I can't follow the math.

2. The fictional character most like you?

I don't know if the fictional character I like most is like me, but the crazy image of Gatsby throwing his closet full of hand made shirts in the air resonates.

3. The greatest album, ever?

It's a mood thing. By day, Glenn Gould's first recording of the Goldberg Variations by J.S. Bach. By night, obviously, it's Kind of Blue.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Where Nimoy goes, I follow. LLAP.

5. Your ideal brain food? [Note: We mean 'brain food' as in creative sustenance, not literal food.]

To bracket and then italicize "[... creative sustenance, not literal food.]" may display a thoroughly Eurocentric god/man relationship that is a pathetic pseudo scientific explanation of a Bronze Age mythology. I deign to comment further. Although food counts.

6. You're proud of this accomplishment, but why?

I seem to be fulfilling both my dreams and those of my father. I couldn't ask for more.

7. You want to be remembered for . . . ?

It's all about body of work. One good thing is promising. Two good things are great. A lifetime of good work is a true accomplishment.

8. Of those who've come before, the most inspirational are?

[John] Coltrane, for sure. The combination of talent, artistic freedom, and incredible discipline in his work staggers me. And of course, Ray Charles.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

The Bill of Rights.

10. Your hidden talents . . . ?

. . . have been revealed to the few, but remain hidden from the many.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

Advice is difficult if not impossible for me to follow. But a good example can last a lifetime. Two examples: high school drama teacher Neil Hess. College: Music Theory and Composition professor Evan Tonsing. What these guys taught me will stay with me forever.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

My friend Mike and I stole . . . well, borrowed [a] Cessna 172 single engine airplane, but we did return it without a scratch.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or . . . ?

In life: Levi 501s. On stage: Canali suits.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

I love Ritz Carlton Hotels and would live in one if I could afford it, but with the exception of Dean Faring's excellent restaurant in the Dallas R/C and BLT Market in the R/C in Central Park, I almost always eat in my room. Company is optional.

15. Time travel: where, when, and why?

Where have you been for the last few hundred years?

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation, or Prozac?

Ok, so you pick one . . . Aw fuck it, sex.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or . . . ?

Dogs.

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

I'm definitely a city mouse living as a country mouse, and loving it. I even grow winter wheat and blue stem. If I told you where I'd have to kill you.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

Keep your promises.

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

A plan to telekinetically alter the space/time continuum enough to exist in more than one dimension at a time, and be aware of it in each one. Since that's not completely worked out yet, I suppose I'll finish the music to this trio album I've been working on. If you buy enough copies of Natural History, I'll do another one like it.

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(Available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

2. The Lure (Agnieszka Smoczynska, 2015)

Two mermaid sisters (Marta Mazurek, Michalina Olszanska) can summon legs at will to mingle on shore with the band at a Polish disco, where their siren act is a hit. In this dark reinvention of Hans Christian Andersen's already dark The Little Mermaid, one love-struck sister is tempted to sacrifice her fishy nature for human mortality while her sister indulges moments of bloodlust. Abetted by writer Robert Bolesto and twin sister-musicians Barbara and Zuzanna Wronska, director Agnieszka Smoczynska offers a woman's POV on the fairy tale crossed with her glittery childhood memories of '80s Poland. The result: a bizarre, funy, intuitive genre mash-up with plenty of songs. This Criterion disc offers a making-of and two short films by Smoczynska, also on musical subjects.

(Available from Criterion Collection / Read PopMatters review here.)

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(Available from Criterion Collection / Reader PopMatters review here.

4. The Ghoul (Gareth Tunley, 2016)

The hero (Tom Meeten) tells his therapist that in his dreams, some things are very detailed and others are vague. This movie tells you bluntly what it's up to: a Möbius strip narrative that loops back on itself , as attributed to the diabolical therapists for their cosmic purposes. Then we just wait for the hero to come full circle and commit the crime that, as a cop, he's supposedly investigating. But this doesn't tell us whether he's really an undercover cop pretending to be depressed, or really a depressive imagining he's a cop, so some existential mysteries will never be answered. It's that kind of movie, indebted to David Lynch and other purveyors of nightmarish unreality. Arrow's disc offers a making-of, a commentary from writer-director Gareth Tunley and Meeten along with a producer, and a short film from Tunley and Meeten.

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(Available from Warner Bros.)

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(Available from Warner Bros.)

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(Available from Criterion Collection)

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(Available from Warner Bros.)

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Memory will never serve us well when it comes to Christmas and all its surrounding complications. Perhaps worse than the financial and familial pressures, the weather and the mad rush to consume and meet expectations, to exceed what happened the year before, are the floods of lists and pithy observations about Christmas music. We know our favorite carols and guilty pleasures ("O Come All Ye Faithful", "Silent Night"), the Vince Guaraldi Trio's music for 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas that was transcendent then and (for some, anyway) has lost none of its power through the years, and we embrace the rock songs (The Kink's "Father Christmas", Greg Lake's "I Believe In Father Christmas", and The Pretenders' "2000 Miles".) We dismiss the creepy sexual predator nature in any rendition of "Baby, It's Cold Outside", the inanity of Alvin and the Chipmunks, and pop confections like "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus".

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