tunesday – cass mccombs interview

You tend to think of your heroes as having plenty of confidence. Take Cass McCombs, for instance. You’d think the Californian folk singer would be rather chuffed with all that he’s achieved, including his latest album, Mangy Love. But it turns out the fellow doesn’t care for self-praise at all, as he told us in this wee chat just below.

cass mcombs 1

THE MEANING OF LOVE I don’t even know when I first fell in love – I’m still trying to figure out what love means. On a daily basis, I contemplate: what does it mean? Is love possession of another person, or is love more platonic? I always fall back on Kerouac when it comes to concepts of love; he had a pretty zen attitude about people just supporting each other. I guess that’s where I’m at today.

(NOT) OWNING YOUR AGE When you’re a kid, all you want to do is smoke cigarettes and be a grown-up. And then, by the time you realise that’s an empty gesture, it’s too late. A lot of adults flip it, and kind of pretend like they’re children. I guess I’m probably one of them. I still dress the same way I did when I was 15; still listen to the same music as when I was 15. I wouldn’t say I feel like a kid, but I don’t feel like an adult.

POWER AND POTIONS I’m not a very good cook, but I can make this kind of healthy vegetable stew thing. It’s like a witch’s brew cauldron thing that tastes OK. It’s got all kinds of spices and vegetables, and it’s very good when you come back from tour and your body is completely depleted of its minerals. You ingest that, and you get that power back.

USING WORRY FOR GOOD Worry is pointless. We invariably get worried, but it’s really a worthless feeling. I’m always telling myself, “Just create.” If you’re feeling worried or anxious, that’s a good place to write a poem or a song – just meditate on your feelings, even if they’re unclear to you. Pretty much all my songs are written when I’m feeling bad. Because if I’m feeling good, why write a song? Just go skateboarding or something.

FIVE-FINGER DISCOUNTS When I was a kid, I shoplifted all the time. Got caught a bunch of times, too. I stole cigarettes, baseball cards, toys. I stole a Batman key chain somewhere in Utah. I always say my songs are stolen. Songwriting is kind of like that – you have to steal, and you have to be aware that you’re stealing. People take a melody and they write new lyrics to it, or just change a couple of words around. This has been going on for a thousand years. What we’re trying to do is create a world without possessions, where we share everything equally.

GIVING THANKS I never give myself a pat on the back. I’m harsh on myself, I guess. I just never feel satisfied enough. Instead of giving gratitude to ourselves, we should give back to the people who took care of us when we were in trouble – our friends, our family, whatever. They’re the people who deserve our gratitude. We don’t ever need to pat ourselves on the back. That’s not necessary. Maybe some people do, but not me.

FINDING HARMONY School isn’t really a place to learn – it’s like a warzone. You have to have fights with people; you’re always trying to protect yourself and stand up for yourself. Music was an escape for me, but also something to do with my friends besides wrestle with each other. As a young man, even with your closest friends, you’re always trying to gain some kind of respect. But music is a way for friends to come together, and it stays that way for the rest of your life.


Tuesday December 6th – Newtown Social Club, Sydney
Thursday December 8th – Melbourne Recital Centre, Melbourne
Friday December 9th – Meredith Music Festival, Meredith
Saturday December 10th – The Zoo, Brisbane

For more Cass McCombs, head here.

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