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Will Oldham on Bonnie "Prince" Billy

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  229 ratings  ·  31 reviews
A man who acts under the name Will Oldham and a singer songwriter who performs under the name Bonnie 'Prince' Billy has, over the past quarter of a century, made an idiosyncratic journey through, and an indelible mark on, the worlds of indie rock and independent cinema, intersecting with such disparate figures as Johnny Cash, Bjork, James Earl Jones and R. Kelly along the ...more
400 pages
Published April 5th 2012
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(showing 1-30 of 511)
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Patrick Brown
This is the best music book since Our Band Could Be Your Life. If you're a fan of Will Oldham, in his many incarnations, this is the book you've been waiting for -- an in-depth look at Oldham's life, creative process, and philosophy. A book-length interview between Oldham and his sometimes collaborator, guitarist Alan Licht, this book covers every aspect of his career, including his acting work. All of his albums -- Palace and Bonnie "Prince" Billy -- get a thorough examination. This was eye-ope ...more
Lee
4.5 stars rounded up because it could've been 600 pages longer. A textual manifestation of every fan's fantasy to sit down for a few hours/days and chat with Will about his music and history and performance and identity and the Incredible Hulk. Also fantastic to turn down pages to look up so many musicians I didn't know: Solomon Burke, Oum Kalsoum, Roger Miller, Roy Harper, June Tabor. Can't think of another book-length interview, although Renegade by Mark E. Smith comes close (loved BPB's refer ...more
Alex V.
I was immediately consumed in Will Oldham's cleansing fire when I took the bus from my office at a Microsoft campus to another Microsoft campus across town in Redmond to buy a Palace Brothers CD some guy had for sale on the company's internal swap shop message board. I knew people who bought cars off this thing because they proudly told me and everyone they had. The guy's office was completely blank, lit up with blaring overhead lights. He had two desks strewn with computer parts and a small sta ...more
Brian Beatty
Musician interviews rarely rise above the lowest rung of the entertainment journalism ladder, but there's considerably more to Will Oldham than the typical singer/songwriter/actor/photographer. I credit his home state of Kentucky and the sense of cantankerous glee evident in his work. And while an early 90s Palace show at Lounge Axe in Chicago still ranks among the worst live music I've ever been unfortunate enough to witness, Oldham remains among my favorite musical artists because he brings ge ...more
Edmole
In which Will Oldham talks to his friends for 300 pages, and Ed sits rapt listening to his bearded hero, imagining the words passing that mulchy beard, and is satisfied by what he hears.

What I found particularly interesting in this is Will comes from the generation who grew up listening to 80s alternative rock/hardcore/punk and while he plays folk/country music, the morals and lessons and contrariness of those bands is deep in his DNA. Reading it I was a little jealous of that time, that stickin
...more
Eric
Less about Will Oldham the person than Will Oldham the actor and Bonnie 'Prince' Billy the musician, which is a bit of a shame. And at 400 pages, it ends up being a little overindulgent. But there's a lot of incredibly interesting anecdotes and insightful quasi-philosophies littering much of the book and Oldham sheds a lot of light on his two decades of strong musical output.

Some quotes:

"But it's nice, it's a great position to be in, to be in a relationship with a woman and be able to call her '
...more
Burgoo
Will Oldham has a reputation for opting out of music industry promotional activities. He just doesn’t do the promotional circuit for each release, with the obligatory interviews, television appearances, etc etc. That’s why it was a bit of a shock to discover this title.

Alan Licht (a friend and sometimes collaborator) sat down with Oldham for a series of interviews over the course of a week. This book is the result of those interview sessions. It reads less like a typical industry hagiography or
...more
M. Sarki
Update 13 Nov 2012: I attended a show that featured Bonnie Prince Billy and I wrote about it here:

http://hub.me/aerUX

One of the most interesting interviews I have ever read. I wish it hadn't ended. And I wish I could do this book more justice by writing a better review. But for now this must do. Too engaged with other things such as D. H. Lawrence who is wearing me out. (In a good way.)

Some news about BPB found here:
http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/20...

And be sure to watch the new video of
...more
Full Stop
Jun 11, 2014 Full Stop added it
Shelves: spring-2013
http://www.full-stop.net/2012/12/21/r...

Review by Michael Schapira

Back in April a piece appeared on the New York Times Style Magazine blog announcing the imminent UK release of Will Oldham on Bonnie “Prince” Billy, with a US edition to be published in the fall by Faber & Faber. For any longtime and slightly obsessive fan of Will Oldham — which is to say the majority of his fan base — this was something of a major event. We learned that “within the book’s 382 pages Oldham answers nearly every
...more
Jamie Grefe
So much to digest, but at the same time these conversations between Licht and Oldham capture a beautiful fluency of thought, a casual opening of one of my favorite artist's mind. This book has certainly given me a lot to think about in terms of how I will listen to Bonnie Billy's music and, moreover, it provides a deep context into who this person is and the communities that helped shape and define his music.
Michael Liquori
What makes this book unique is that Will really focuses a lot on the evolution of his thinking regarding various artistic as well as life decisions. Further surprising is that he is a very analytical thinker and well-able to communicate these ideas. This is a real rarity among great musicians, who generally lack insight or even fear that their muse may fly away if they try to examine it too closely.
Goatville9


An essential read for all Will Oldham fans. This is a book to return too over and over again to extract some nourishing bit - be it a musician reference or a discussion about music and art.
Jimmy
Jan 23, 2013 Jimmy added it
I didn't even get bored once.
Jonathan
I've been patiently waiting for this book to appear for a while now and was very glad to see it arrive the other day.

It is a must for any BPB fan as Will Oldham discusses all aspects of his musical and acting career to date. In fact at some point through the interviews he must talk about nearly every song that he's recorded.

During the interviews Will reveals the inspiration behind many songs and albums, how they evolved and who was involved, together with information about his approach to the re
...more
Mike Mantin
A book-length interview with Will Oldham by an old friend and tourmate, shedding some light and getting some answers out of a notoriously enigmatic figure (figures?). The interview is conducted chronologically and finds Will talking about days growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, going to shows and building a love of music - there's the revelation that his first show was opening for Steve Albini's Rapeman making "anal breathing" sounds. But as well as the standard autobiography, Will projects a g ...more
Jacob
"...but at a certain point aren't all the cultural activities supposed to be a fraction of our existence and enrich our existence, but not be our existence?" (p. 317)

A fascinating read that examines the career of one of my favorite singer/songwriters and beard heroes. This book provides Oldham's philosophy about approaching songs, albums, tours, and music in general which is intriguing if sometimes contradictory or just generally disagreeable. It's also interesting for those hoping to discover O
...more
Will
Singer/songwriter and actor has lots of interesting things to say about music, the music industry, collaboration, film and creativity in general. Some of it I wasn't really buying, but found it pretty interesting anyway. A lot of it, however, is solid thought-out perspectives and cuts through the hype and bs of promoting art and gets at the core of making something and being a part of a larger community of makers. Also, it still covers the bunches of little anecdotes that everyone wants to hear ...more
Bern
The concept and the execution are kind of pretentious, but reading an interview of this length really makes you feel like you've gotten to know the subject. Because I'm not an artist, reading Oldham's description of his creative processes was the most interesting part for me. The man has some strong opinions about what it means to make music. I'm still sure he and I wouldn't be friends if we met, though.
Bucky Shirtsleeves
Because it lived up to my expectations of who I wanted WO to be, and often exceeded them. I wanted a bit more of the personal stuff (versus the specifics of what went down in what album) as I think with someone like WO, they're inextricably linked and it's been too long since I was that intimately involved with any of his recordings, although it did engender a lot of re-listening.
Grant Custer
really enjoyed this. Oldham has lots of ideas about what art is and should be, but somehow they are all presented as his opinions. they are not pressed upon you so much as they are shown to be what has guided his career -- the implication is not that you should subscribe to his ideas but that you should follow his model in building your actions/art out of your own.
Chris
Jul 19, 2012 Chris rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: own
One of the best pieces of music writing I've read recently. Incredibly detailed, funny, fascinating, revealing.

I loved it, but I don't think it's a must-read unless you've spent time with Oldham's music. There's a lot of information that might seem pedantic to those who haven't listened to his records. For those who have, however, it's pretty engrossing.
Guion Pratt
I learned that one of my favorite songwriters started his performing career opening for Steve Albini doing something called anal breathing. Then he goes on to say a lot of really profound and freeing stuff about the songwriting/recording/performing process. He also makes a case for R. Kelly being more valuable than Bob Dylan.
Glenn
Sep 06, 2012 Glenn rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: music
An endlessly fascinating, oft icon-breaking interview with Will about BPB.

He has a unique outlook on art, on creating, and his views are never less than interesting. The interview to end all interviews.

I found myself challenged by how he looks at live performance, other artists, the concept of "adulation" vs. community.
Travis
Reading what essentially amounts to a four hundred page interview sounds like a total drag, but Will Oldham talks about his film and music career with such insight and charisma that I could have painlessly read another four hundred pages. I'd recommend this to anyone who's ever been touched by his work.
Robert
EXCELLENT - A very insightful book on how Will Oldham's mind works, at least in his BPB guise. Essential and original.
Zachary
This isn't just a music interview/bio book, it is a philosophy book. Good read if you know anything about Palace music or Bonnie Prince Billy. In my opinion, the re-recording Bonnie did of 'I See a Darkness' to go along with this book is the quintessential version. So good.
Jess
I'm a big fan but not a super fan of Bonnie "Prince" Billy, so I wasn't always super interested in the fact that one song uses the same chorus or metaphor as another. Still, I learned a lot about music from these conversations.
Mike Uva
I am a fan of this man's music and was very excited to read this "extended interview" and it did not disappoint. Interesting discussions on art, songs, collaboration, drugs, culture. Inspiring stuff.
Ignacio Elola
An absolute must-read not only for any Bonnie Prince Billy / Palace fan, but also for anyone interesting in music by itself and creation, art, performance and entertainment.
Andrea Márquez López
It's amazing all the good music you can now add to your iTunes after reading this.
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Will Oldham is a singer-songwriter and actor. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky.
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“In sleep you’re protected by the fact that you’re asleep and, for the most part, alone, no matter how close somebody else might be to you physically. For the most part you’re asleep and alone, and it’s all . . . up to you.” 0 likes
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