FAKING IT WON’T HELP YOU MAKE IT Something I now know to be true is that you’re much more resonant when you're being authentic and honest. When I was first starting out, I tried really hard to be what I thought I should be; to be the person I thought the world would want. I would have been more powerful and compelling just being the person I am, though. That's when things really connect. People usually like it way more than if you’re trying to be some fancy-pants.
CREATIVITY NEVER SLEEPS The strangest place I’ve found inspiration is a Ken Burns documentary about the First World War. A couple of years ago, I went through a really bad patch of insomnia. I used to fall asleep watching those Ken Burns docos on my laptop. They're really slow, beautiful documentaries with a very quiet, calm voice reading everything. One time, I woke up to them telling me about some battle, and it cut to a sign with the town's name: Saint-Lô. I was like, "That." And I wrote a song with that title, because of that one moment in the Ken Burns film.
AGE IS JUST A NUMBER I don't really think about ageing. I have so many friends of different ages, you know, from like 18 to their 50s. I think I do less stupid shit than I did when I was 21, but I haven't joined the ‘I'm in my 30s and all I like is renovations’ club, or whatever. I'm still me. I still go to parties and listen to music and write songs and hang out with interesting artists. When you choose the life of a musician, you’re essentially adopting a non-standard approach to life, whichever phase of it you’re in. So I’m good; I just don’t think about it.
EVOLUTION IS INEVITABLE In the beginning, everybody tends to use their creative output in a really journalistic way. You write your stories and your heartbreak and about the boy you like. It's all very autobiographical. I've been learning how not to put myself into the narrative quite so much. When I think about Nick Cave's work, for instance, the stuff he writes about is all quite fantastic and mythological. It's a more elevated, conceptual way of writing. It's a bit of a departure from the kinds of things I wrote at the beginning of my career.
SMALL GOALS LEAD TO BIG RESULTS I like to set creative goals. I just did a writing exercise where I was like, “Right, I'm going to wake up every morning for a month, and I'm going to write a page of lyrics, and I'm not going to look at them. And I'm not going to judge them, or screw up the paper and put it in the bin, either. I'm just going to write lyrics every morning – that’s what I'm gonna do.” That was really hard, but I did it, and now I'm going to look at it all and try to find a song in there. I try to explore ways I can expand my experience of the process of making music. Write a song in 15 minutes. Write a song in 15 years. That kind of thing is really interesting to me.
GET TO KNOW YOURSELF I have a pretty anxious personality, and I always worry that the things I do are mistakes. So, even when they're good decisions, I'm always kind of stressed they'll eventually reveal themselves to be wrong. That's what it feels like to be in my brain. I think everything could be better; I’m always a little bit disappointed in myself. Living in this kind of turmoil, I try to be pretty philosophical about it all. Some people have an internal carrot they use to motivate themselves – I have an internal stick. That’s just who I am. ■