Music

20 Questions: Zachary Cale

He's one of America's most accomplished singer-songwriters, after only a decade of recorded output. But success hasn't changed Cale, who still loves cowboy boots, climbing trees, and swapping song titles, Robert Pollard-style.


Zachary Cale

Duskland

US Release: 2015-08-07
Label: No Quarter
UK Release: 2015-08-07
Artist Website
Label Website
Amazon
iTunes

Someone find Zachary Cale's birthday candles, please.

No, it's not for the fact that the Louisiana-bred, New York-based singer-songwriter is about to celebrate his 37th birthday here soon. It's to commemorate a full decade since Outlander Sessions first arrived in the world, that scrappy little debut album that Zachary Cale famously recorded on a simple four-track with a guitar that actually wasn't his. As great an origin story as it is, that 10-song wonder proved only to be a sign of things to come, as over the years, Cale's own guitar mastery continued to grow, soon opening his albums up to more elaborate, flourishing productions, at one point even forming a full-band rock outfit called Illuminations just to take his songwriting to a different place.

Yet for all the finger-picked and quickly-strummed numbers that Cale began building his career on, nothing could have prepared him for the reception to 2013's Blue Rider, his finest achievement and his undisputed breakthrough album. PopMatters' own Matthew Fiander noted that Blue Rider "excels as a personal document, reflecting on the sweet and hard times, but it's also more than that; it's a document that perfectly represents the plight and joy of the independent musician, of the artist constantly knocking on those gates, hoping for that welcome noise on the other side." Outside of his many positive notices, Cale managed to relentlessly tour, cover a song for his friend Will Stratton, and even, as he tell us, write a bit of a rag for Sesame Street.

Now, with the release of his anticipated fifth album Duskland (which we've already referred to as "Cale's golden hour"), Cale took his time to answer PopMatters' 20 Questions, revealing penchants for cowboy boots, climbing trees, and swapping song titles, Robert Pollard-style.

* * *

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

I take after my mother, I cry during the commercial breaks. I've also been known to cry watching crap movies on airplanes. Not sure why. I think it's the combination of being away from home and defying gravity that makes the most mundane things intensely emotional.

2. The fictional character most like you?

I don't know. Cool Hand Luke maybe? I can identify with that dude anyway. Here's a great line from the movie. "Come on. Love me, hate me, kill me, anything. Just let me know it." Sounds like something I'd say.

3. The greatest album, ever?

I really couldn't say. There's so many greatest albums. Besides, rating art is pointless.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Yeah you know Star Wars was cool when I was eight. Trekkies unite!

5. Your ideal brain food?

Taking a walk helps me work through things. Just a stroll around the neighborhood or doing a simple errand on foot can get my brain moving.

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

I composed an acoustic "rag" for a Sesame Street clip once. How many acorns in the tree or something. They paid me 100 bucks. But hey it was the first time my guitar was heard on national TV, so that's something right?

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

I've written a lot of songs. Hopefully I'll be remembered for that. If not that probably my winning personality and devilish good looks.

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

Off the top of my head? Charlie Chaplin.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

Toss up between Fountain by Marcel Duchamp or The Sistine Chapel.

10. Your hidden talents . . .?

I'm really good at climbing trees.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

If you commit yourself to something for ten years you'll become a master at it. An eccentric friend of my father's told me that. I was 13 I think. Just starting to play guitar. He was a back to land type person. Lived off the grid out in Eastern, WA. He had his own farm animals, mule, log cabin, no electricity, phone. He kept his goat milk cold in a mountain stream, and built his own hot tube with a fire place underneath it. He also had a Caboose from an old train that he lived in sometimes. He definitely left an impression.

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

A guitar that I bought with borrowed money that was eventually stolen. I wrote roughly 300 songs with it. It was a good one.

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

Cowboy boots.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

Keith Richards 'cos there's just no way that could be boring.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

Anytime or place as long as it was before the Internet.

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

Time alone, a hammock by the sea, a surfboard, a good book, a guitar. A hit man for anybody that tries to contact me.

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

"Music, sweet music" and the love of a good woman. Coffee is good too.

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

Hard to say. I like spending time in the country but I like living in cities. Countries: Galicia province of Spain, Southwest region of the US, Lombok or Bali in Indonesia, the Cascade Mountain range in Washington state. Cities: Rome, Katmandu, New Orleans, Lisbon, Bangkok, Prague.

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

I guess you tried your hardest but I'm afraid you're hardest wasn't that hard.

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

I'm about four albums behind schedule right now. I'm always writing, but recording is very slow for me. Maybe it's because I don't enjoy it that much and it's expensive, I'd rather be playing live. I'm about to go on tour so I'm not really working on anything too intensely right now. I did just start a songwriting project with my friend Jonathan Byerley of the New York band, Plates of Cake. He came up with ten song titles and I came up with ten song titles and we swapped. The idea is to write songs from the titles. Robert Pollard from Guided by Voices writes all his records that way. Thought it'd be a cool experiment.



Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Music

Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.

Music

Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.

Music

Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.

Music

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.

Music

Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.

Film

The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.

Music

'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.

Music

Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.

Books

Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

Music

South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.

Music

Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.

Music

'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.