Patrick Watson: Q&A
Patrick Watson (Handout)
Patrick Watson’s live show needs to be seen to be described. You never know when the charismatic frontman will bring a bicycle out on stage, not to ride, but to play. Yes, play... as an instrument. There may be a glass marimba, garbage cans or a saw laying around for a song or two. This, however, is not what makes a Patrick Watson show a true live experience. It’s only a fraction. What sets the show apart is the songs. Well-crafted thought-provoking chamber-pop from a band who truly have cut their teeth on the road is like nothing else in the world. Patrick himself has said that, “if a live show is not better than the CD, that band sucks.” He certainly stays true to that ethos. MSN caught up with Patrick after soundcheck in Columbus, Ohio to discuss the tour, songwriting and scoring films.
How have things been? You’ve been on the road, pretty much without rest since April.
Yeah, forever. [laughs]
How have the new songs progressed? Your live shows take the songs in new directions every night.
I think this album changed the least on the road. The arrangements we came up with in the studio are a lot more solid than our other albums. That’s something I’ve noticed. I think the energy behind the show always changes. The setlist always changes. The place always changes. The way we decide to play the song that night changes. I think it’s more about the place and the time that has the biggest effect.
You’ve been opening the shows recently with the first four songs from the new record in order. How come?
It’s hard to put them anywhere else. ‘Lighthouse’, if you don’t put in the beginning you can’t put it in. It’s very much an opening track. If you’re going to play a new song, the song has a bit of a personality that sometimes it’s got a specific place in our set. If we don’t have a solid set list, it can really dampen a show. This album has probably been the hardest in terms pacing. The order of the songs really makes a difference on the songs. It’s a very tough show to change in that way.
With the new record using less instrumentation, do you still bring all the same gear out on the road?
Pretty much, I guess we always have a similar kind of setup. Maybe a little less than Robbie had before. He doesn’t do all the garbage cans and stuff like that. Just with our own instruments, we can get a lot of crazy sounds out of them. It’s not important that we have a lot of instruments. It’s more that we’re similarly creative on our instruments. Our guitar player has brilliant sounds. Everybody has that kind of philosophy. It definitely looks chaotic. [laughs]
I know there’s a few European shows booked with orchestras in the spring but else do you have planned for the new year?
It’s going to be a very quiet year.
You’re going to take a little break and just focus on yourself?
Yeah. Well just focus on being a dad, and be home for a while. It’s a lot of something to be always out on the road and away from your life. It’s tough on everybody. It’s like the same day every day. It’s hard to grow and evolve on the road. You always feel like the same person. At home, you change, and you grow, and you move. It’s a really strange. It’s a very weird thing. Some moments are amazing, and you’re like, “Wow. I’m so happy that I can do this.” Then when you get to this part and you’re at the very end, you’re like, “Oh god… I can’t believe I do this.” It’s very funny experience.
When you do get home, and you do take some time for the family, when do you think it’s going to hit you? When do you think you’ll have to get back to writing, and jotting down ideas, sitting behind a piano. Are you able to get out of that mind frame?
No. When I get home, I’ll probably work on some scores. That’s something I just enjoy. I like working a lot. I always like playing music. It’s like you’re going fishing when you’re songwriting. You always have to have your hook in the water. You never know when you’re going to catch a good fish, but you’re kind of never really on a real vacation. You’re always meeting different people, and you’re always keeping your eyes open for that one little idea that might spark something that’s truly amazing.
You’re constantly writing.
I guess you kind of have to be. It’s kind of like a muscle too. I think at one point I got really tired next to the break. It was very tough going back after. It’s a muscle right. The more you exercise, the more your imagination is always on the ball. I don’t always have to be writing songs. I can take breaks in writing songs. I’ll just write different types of stuff.
You’ve said of this record, that you “hope that Adventures in Your Own Backyard brings a little bit of creativity and magic to the everyday world”. What brings you that magic and creativity?
Good question! Nailed me on my question. Well, music for starters. I love film and music. For me, finding amazing soundtracks are really helpful for me. Film as well. Music and film. I think those are my favourite things that keep me busy and keep me dreaming.
How does a film like Being John Malkovich inspire you to write a song like ‘Beijing’?
Being John Malkovich is a very interesting idea. Also the idea of just being someone else. I think even touring kind of feels that way anyways. [laughs] Definitely film. Donnie Darko, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, There Will Be Blood. There’s lots of films that have had influence on my albums.
Almost reversing that, what are you looking for in a film when you’re scoring it?
It’s kind of like colouring. The idea of you getting a colouring a book and a bunch of different colour crayons and you’ve got to colour inside of the lines. It’s a little like that. It’s supposed to bring the film to life and bring certain moments out a bit more, or make certain things step out a bit more. You’re helping the film in its finishing stage. Maybe something isn’t said and you need to finish saying what the film hasn’t finished saying. That’s what I really look for. The actors are talking and they look a certain way, but the final emotional tone a lot of the times comes from the music. You’re trying to find out what the director didn’t accomplish in the film itself and what do I need to add to make the story work.
Would it be harder to score comedy?
[laughs] It’d be harder for me. I don’t even know how you would do that. I’d be the wrong person to hire for a comedy.
Five quick questions. One word answers.
Road or Studio?
[laughs] Hot tub.
Lennon or McCartney.
When you hear a song, what usually hits you first: Lyrics, melody, or rhythm?
Song you’ve written that you’re the most proud of?
I think ‘A Man Like You’. I really like that song. I don’t know. I have no idea.
And in one word, Patrick Watson.
Ah f*ck. [laughs] I don’t even know what to say that.