Throughout the album, you tend to blur genre boundaries by mixing folk with blues and pop with country. Was this a conscious part of your songwriting process?
I think it's always been like that for me. I've never been very tied down to a genre. The whole genre thing has always been really challenging for me. I've found myself in situations where I feel like I'm supposed to be more specific; I'm supposed to streamline. I think on my first solo record, Aloha, Manitoba, that album would probably be very easy to classify as folk rock, I guess, which is just so fucking James Taylor. Anyway, yeah, at the same time, there are also those pop and blues moments that come from the same sources that I've been drawing from since I was an infant. I think they're very well represented on this record. I guess the difference is that I didn't want to censor myself. I didn't want to make a country record; I didn't want to make a pop record; I didn't want to make a blues record. Any one of those things would've been just boring.
Why did it take you so long to release another album, considering Broken (And Other Rogue States) was released in 2005?
Because I was touring Broken for such a long time. I lived in Nashville for a while, toured the States quite a bit and I also did a tour with Blue Rodeo. I went to Europe a few times too. I basically didn't have time to record. I think it's okay that it took me such a long time; I'm okay with it now when I look back and think about it. However, I don't think I'll wait this long to make another record in the future. I just know that in another six months I'll be itching to get back into the studio.
What was your initial plan for Blood's Too Rich?
The initial plan was that I didn't want to make a record that was monothematic. The other goal I had was to arrange the songs the way I wanted them to be arranged, and to not censor if they needed to be six minutes long with a jam session at the end. My better judgment wouldn't have allowed me to put that on a record [in the past]. This record I wanted to have those moments exist.
I really noticed this, especially on Cleveland, which is seven-and-a-half minutes long.
Yeah, and it sure is long. I worked really hard on the ending of that song to make sure the instruments were there and the parts were there, so that it had a purpose. It's like a late '70s Rolling Stones jam that goes on forever. I'm aware of the risk in that, because people can get tired, but I also wanted to allow those moments to be what they are. I didn't want to cut everything down into three-and-a-half-minute pop songs.
On "Long Haul Driver," you sing about a man and his job as a trucker. On "Motorbike," you sing about taking off on a motorcycle. What do you find so appealing about these life occurrences?
I bought a van about a year ago and put 100,000 km on it since then. Most of those miles were put on driving from Nashville to Atlanta, or New York or something, so I built kind of a kinship with [truck drivers] on the road. I spent a lot of time by myself. There are literally millions of people on the road driving those big trucks, carrying bananas from Boise to Miami. There was an endless, endless supply of people moving stuff around. And essentially, for the first time in my life, I felt kind of like those guys, except I was carrying my gear. Then it occurred to me that maybe I should get a big rig and be carrying bananas, so then when I showed up in Chicago I could make an extra $300 dropping off my load of chicken livers or whatever. I built a kinship with those guys, and I used to fear them. Truckers are such a specific cultural archetype. You mention the word or wear the clothes and it conjures up the image of people living in small towns who park their trucks behind their modular homes. That's probably really inaccurate, obviously, but I don't know. There's romance in those people and I find it strange that it took me so long to discover it, considering I'd been on the road touring for over 15 years.
Would you say then that the rustic lifestyle started appealing to you a bit more on Blood's Too Rich?
Well, those stories are more appealing to me than the really fantastic ones. And I think my affinity for geography and the stories from my travels play a big part [in that]. I write about what I know. I started travelling by myself when I was 11 years old, and I would go away for a month or six weeks at a time. There's obvious romance in that, and in country music especially.
How does Blood's Too Rich fare in comparison to Broken?
Broken was very much single-themed. It was a break-up record about broken hearts and wallowing in pity and self-despair. In comparison, this record is looser, thanks to the help of the band the White Falcon. Although they worked on the last record, this is three-and-a-half years later, where they've actually become a band, rather than it being just me and the people I hire. I hope that comes across, because that's deliberate. It was deliberate to treat the process as one involving my band and friends as opposed to my employees.