RACHEL: When you listen to these recordings, hearing the younger version of yourself sing those songs, does it make you feel wistful or nostalgic at all? I have a mantra that kind of explains my feelings on this subject, which is, “The past is the present is the future.” When you’re recording something, you’re making something that will exist in the future.When you’re listening to a recording, you’re supposedly listening to some aspect of the past in the present as you travel slowly into the future, but you also know there’s a very strong likelihood that the future of that recording, whether you made it or whether you’re listening to a Led Zeppelin record, is going to continue probably far beyond where you are.Then, maybe five years in, he sent me a letter and a CD. I guess he had a record label for a while in the ’70s called Dandelion. I don’t want his handshake, I don’t want him trying to remember my name for 45 seconds or seeing what flavor of potato chips he likes to eat. I was really looking forward to doing the thing that I do—I basically appear just at the beginning and at the end of the play—but when I got to opening night, I started to get really sad that that was the last time I was going to the play as a spectator without actually being in it.He sent a letter just saying hello, and saying that he thought I would like this Medicine Head record. Then a few years later, it was his 60th birthday and someone from his staff wrote that they were trying to assemble, as a special surprise, recordings from Peel’s favorite artists covering some of his favorite songs. It doesn’t even occur to me—Why would I want to meet Iggy Pop? I want to see him sing, and I want to see him sing a song repeatedly and warm up to it, and use his voice and use his body. I do an opening, and then I go up to the high balcony in the back and watch the bulk of the play, but then I have to leave my seat about seven to 10 minutes before the end of that final big scene…and it’s a bummer.
So we’ll continue maybe even over the next couple of years to perform that and to expand our collaborative repertoire.You know that when you’re writing the song and recording the song, you’re already sending a message to the future listener, whoever and wherever and whenever that will be.For these Peel Sessions, you go into a studio in London and record something that’s going to be played on the radio later on.With these recordings, I valued the experience of making the recordings, and I value the performances contained therein, and I value so much of what they can represent.I also think they’re a terrific listening experience.These songs share that as well, in addition to just the obvious, basic starkness. I still write music and I record music, I just don’t trust music promotion [and] distribution right now enough to record a new set of diligently worked-upon compositions.I do trust the audience and the audiences very much.Over the past two decades he has released nearly 20 albums (under the monikers of Palace Brothers, Palace Music, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, and Will Oldham), worked as a film and theater actor (his turn in Kelly Reichardt’s 2006 film is particularly fantastic), and generally floated around the edges of popular culture in ways one might not expect (such as having his songs covered by the late Johnny Cash, making a cameo appearance in R. In short, Will Oldham is equally talented and inscrutable, the kind of wonderfully gifted and gently eccentric artist that one encounters all too rarely these days.And though he is generally reticent in interviews, when he pulls together songs from three different Peel Sessions, some of which date back to the beginnings of your career. OLDHAM: I gathered all the different Peel Sessions recordings together—I did six or seven of them over the years—and listened to all of them.To me, recordings are little fourth-dimension artifacts, because they already are representatives of past, present, and future, just inherently in their existence.When I listen to them, they’re like they were made as time capsules in the first place.