Gillian Welch and David Rawlings: Welcome To The Machine

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

I’m sure you’ll get questions about timing and what you’ve been working on the past several years, there being the general expectation out there that you need to put out a new album every couple years.

GW: Which is pretty arbitrary. Pretty, like, artistically arbitrary. I mean, I’m not saying that I’m happy about the rhythm of our record output. However, you know.

DR: That would be crazy talk.

Especially because people care very much when you put out new music.

GW: Right—which is nice.

Did investing energy in a number of different things, bringing Whispertown 2000 onto your Acony label, guesting with a lot of folks on stage and in the studio, affect the timing?

DR: I mean, there’s been other stuff going on. I feel like, as soon as there was a group of songs that went together as a new…that made sense…I don’t know. I’m speaking in fragments. You should…

GW: There have been songs over the years. But they didn’t really play well together. It seemed like I made a start on, like, 10 different projects. And nothing ever stepped forward and said, “This is the next project.” Not until Dave’s record.

DR: That’s about what I was trying to say.

GW: Even when we got up to a little batch of songs that you could have made a record out of, they didn’t seem like they wanted to be on a record together. So what are you gonna do? I guess some people would put it out, but we just didn’t want to.

The Dave Rawlings Machine is a different way of assembling a repertoire for you, with a little more emphasis on interpretation.

DR: Right. In Gillian’s show, having played primarily, or almost entirely, covers through the years, I guess that’s how I learned to… I’m a way more natural collaborative writer than I am a natural solitary writer. I’m just sort of social, and I enjoy the process a lot more if I’m working with someone on a song than if I work by myself. Because of that, through the years I never had a batch of songs that were my own. I mean, strangely, a couple years ago—I should say, the beginning of this project, part of it was…I went out to California and was sort of couch-surfing around Los Angeles and during that time had started writing a batch of songs.

Writing solo?

DR: Yeah. …None of those songs ended up on this project, but the project wouldn’t have happened without them. Because that was the first time that I started singing songs that I had written with some thought—even if it was just sitting with good musician friends, and sitting in a circle and everyone playing songs they’d written—where I felt that I wasn’t there as the guy who was gonna play guitar on everybody else’s stuff. I felt like, when it got to be my turn, I was gonna be singing something. And I think that informed, sort of, the shift in feeling different about the feasibility of the project.

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  1. I am a fan of both Gillian and Dave from what I know through the Gillian albums. The new music from the Dave Rawlings Machine is just as captivating and I’m enjoying each listen. Thank you for this interview. I appreciate the look inside the workings at the machine. If you ever come out Montana-way, I sure hope to have the chance to see you in person.

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