ONE of the artists flying to Singapore for Laneway Festival 2014 is singer-songwriter Kurt Vile. Hailing from Philadelphia in the US, the 33-year-old musician used to be in a band called The War On Drugs before embarking on a solo career. His music straddles the line between folk-rock and alt-country, with vocals that remind one of Beck or Ryan Adams, but with the musicality of Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Tom Petty.
Vile has released five solo albums, each one selling better than the last. Hismodest, blue collar background translates into his songs, which often start out with pleasant, country-ish strumming followedby hisgentle wailings and smooth drawl. His addition to the Laneway lineup should be welcome news to those who like their music folksy and relaxing, with just enough kick to bob their heads to.
Here are excerpts of my exclusive interview with Kurt Vile:
The Manila Times: Where are you and what’s outside your window?
Kurt Vile: I’m in Oxford, Mississippi. And we’re in a basement under a restaurant so I can’t see outside the window right now. But I was up there earlier, and it’s nice.
TMT: tell me about your earliest musical memories.
KV: I listened to the records that my dad used to play. He had some Beatles records, but mainly I remember him playing this Doug Kershaw record which was a Cajun record. He sang songs about being the bully of the bayou, a bit like John Denver.
TMT: You used to be in a band. How’s that different from being a solo act?
KV: Well it’s more often, I write songs on my own, but I tend to keep touring and record with a band. It’s not much different either way. Not that I don’t play solo gigs too, I’ll do that, but I would never want to be just solo, I mean by myself, all the time.
TMT: What’s your songwriting process like?
KV: I think it depends. I used to say that guitar comes first, like the melody. But definitely I figure stuff out in my head, and I think about stuff without a guitar, like lyrics. It sort of just depends.
TMT: Your music is very targeted. Ever thought about going really big, like mainstream, Top 40?
KV: I definitely like a lot of Top 40 songs you know, even it’s funny, like it becomes a favorite song. Given the niche in the industry that I am in, I don’t know if I could even have the banking of having [a]Top 40 hit. But I honestly wouldn’t mind. I think that would be cool to have something like that. I’m not against it, but I wouldn’t want to do it in a sellout kind of way. Like intentionally come out with a record without something to it.
TMT: Speaking of mainstream, if you had to do a duet, who would you pick between Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus or Lady Gaga?
KV: Honestly, I don’t know any of them that much. [Long pause].But Katy Perry.Definitely.
TMT: You’re playing in Laneway next year. Is this your first time in the region?
KV: Yes this is my first time to go to Singapore. I don’t know much about the country. I generally learn a lot when I get there so I’ll definitely look into it. Every time I think of Singapore I think of this one cowboy song called “Shore Leave.” You know like a sailor on shore leave.
Tickets to Laneway Singapore are already on sale. Manila-based indie music fans can purchase their tickets via <ticketworld.com.ph>. For more information, visit <singapore.lanewayfestival.com> Email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter @pauljohncana