Musician Interview: Bingham Willoughby, channeling his influences with his looks and within his music

I’m having a good time with these haiku’s so I’m going to keep writing them, plus they’re tweetable.

Bingham Willoughby
perceives more than mere mortals
His songs freeze beauty

Introducing Rock Poet: Bingham Willoughby

Your new album is called Maybe Not Today, Maybe Tomorrow, are you a big procrastinator or is there another significance to the title?

On one level, you could say that there is a slight essence of procrastination, in the title. But my intentions, speak to more of an anticipatory feeling–as if you might say, “maybe not today, maybe tomorrow…but soon.” I wanted the title to evoke an impression, more akin to having overheard a snippet of conversation, versus some grand mission statement. And on a personal note, I think I’ll answer the question of being a procrastinator, a little later on…

You have a new video out for your song “What If You’d Chosen Me” what is the significance behind all of the nature shots?

The concept for the video was to explore the interaction between the idea of traveling and the various surroundings you’ll encounter. The traveler responds to these situations, and yet what he sees remains unchanged. The viewer is the traveler. The various natural and urban backdrops are silent witnesses. The notion of looking through moss covered branches, points to a starting point for reflection. The traveler is then confronted with images of the guitar scuttling across the forest floor, a snare filling with sky, and Spanish moss springing to life to try on a Da Vinci shirt. The images from nature; the swaying flowers and trees all asking, “What If You’d Chosen Me?” Humans are moving and nature is moving; these images reflect the song’s sentiments: “I don’t know if I’ll ever have the strength to plan again. Say what you have to, you can’t stop this from happening.” We’re asking the questions and searching for answers–in moody, mysterious nature.

If someone were to play Bingham Willoughby in a movie, who, dead or alive, would you want that actor to be?

It might sound like a funny choice, but Orson Welles. Not just because, I like his acting, but mostly because I credit him with performing one of the most bizarre musical numbers, ever committed to film (in Citizen Kane). In fact, some day I’d love to do a shot by shot remake of it, for one of my songs. If I was forced to choose a living actor, I’d have to say Philip Seymour Hoffman (currying favor, with the interviewer).

Your music sounds very reminiscent of Lou Reed, is he an influence of yours? Who are your other influences?

I definitely feel indebtedness to Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground, and certainly, some of the ways I approach song writing are heavily influenced, by what I perceive to be some of their methods. In particular, I’ve always been a huge fan of Reed’s ability to manifest, not only evocative images, but also real emotional urgency. Any writer, who wants to try and speak “of the moment,” owes Lou a debt. In terms of playing, I think any person who utilizes, at times, a reductive approach when playing and ranging, also owes a debt to The Velvet underground.

I have a lot of other influences. Just a few, off the top, would be: The Smiths (Johnny Marr), Lloyd Cole and Neil Young. Even Rockabilly greats, like Eddie Cochran are an influence. When it comes to lyrics, I’m drawn to that turn of phrase that resonates. In my own listening it’s something I always look for, and I’ve discovered it in many varied sources, from Cole Porter to The Shins. I’m always looking out for something that entices me.

This album was truly a solo project, from the music, the recording, and the lyrics; what are the best and worst parts of recording an album alone?

The best part about recording alone might in some ways be the worst part as well. If you have an idea, you can implement it, without consultation, somewhat streamlining the process. However, you also can’t benefit from several great ideas being offered at once, and then crystallizing into one grand idea. That is one of the huge benefits of a group process. The solitary approach fit perfectly, for the way I was feeling about this group of songs. Additionally, from a musician’s standpoint and recording standpoint, there are times when you are actively seeking this form of challenge. You’re trying to make the correct decisions that are going to be right for the songs.

You look like a mixture of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Andy Warhol, what is your favorite Hoffman movie and Warhol piece?

I’ve never been compared to those two people, at the same time before, though I do see the resemblance. I’m a huge fan of both of them, to tell you the truth, so I gladly take the compliment.

I’m a fan of Philip Seymour Hoffman. He’s definitely one of the best character actors working today. I think it would have to come down to a tie between Happiness and Capote, but let’s face it, he’s great in everything he’s done (even Along Came Polly.) Todd Solondz’s, Happiness, is classic Seymour Hoffman and Solondz: equal parts compelling and disturbing. I think one of the greatest things about Philip Seymour Hoffman, is that he somehow elicits a humanity from his performances that allows us to see a little piece of ourselves in his portrayals. Songwriting, aspires to the same goals.

As for Warhol, I am a huge fan, even to the point of having made the pilgrimage to the Warhol museum in Pittsburgh, (and yes, t-shirts were purchased). 5 floors of Andy including some of his taxidermy collection. Well worth a look. As for my favorite Warhol works, I have to throw down another tie, between his Flowers series from the early ’60′s, and a sentimental favorite, Elvis 1 and 2.

…as for being a procrastinator. If I was, Maybe Not Today, Maybe Tomorrow, would have ended with the title.

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