The way I see it: Joanna Newsom

Newsom is a harpist and singer-songwriter from California, best known for her critically acclaimed 2

  • 1 Does art make a difference?
  • Aw, sure. Of course there are degrees of extremity to the potential change that art can effect, depending on how many people are able to engage with it. The Beatles made a huge difference in the world. But Henry Darger, Jeff McKissack, Karen Dalton, Pauline Oliveros, Kenneth Patchen – there are so many folks who have made great art and not gotten massively famous for it, yet I think there are all sorts of ways their work informs and shapes other people’s work, and brains, and decisions.

  • 2 Should politics and art mix?
  • Well, everything mixes, the New Statesman! That’s like asking if a knee-reflex hammer and a quadriceps tendon should “mix”.

  • 3 Is your work for the many or for the few?
  • That’s for the many/few to say. I just crank out the hot jams.

  • 4 If you were world leader, what would
    be your first law?
  • Gravity. I feel like we need to tighten up the constitutional protections that particular law enjoys. It’s a ticking time bomb, if you ask me.

  • 5 Who would be your top advisers?
  • Cute angel on one shoulder, cute devil on the other.

  • 6What, if anything, would you censor?
  • Maybe we could all agree to not bust each other’s chops all cut-dang day.

  • 7 If you had to banish one public figure, who would it be?
  • don’t know, banishment might be a little extreme, but I’d sure like to take that Stephen Hawking dude down a notch or two. Right? Are you with me?

  • 8 What are the rules that you live by?
  • Basically, “bros before hos”. I feel like if you stay true to that, everything else just kind of falls into place.

  • 9 Do you love your country?
  • I love William Faulkner, Dolly Parton, fried chicken, Van Dyke Parks, the Grand Canyon, Topanga Canyon, bacon cheeseburgers with horseradish, Georgia O'Keeffe, Grand Ole Opry, Gary Snyder, Gilda Radner, Radio City Music Hall, Big Sur, Ponderosa pines, Southern BBQ, Highway One, Kris Kristofferson, National Arts Club in New York, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Joni Mitchell, Ernest Hemingway, Harriet Tubman, Hearst Castle, Ansel Adams, Kenneth Jay Lane, Yuba River, South Yuba River Citizens League, “Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore”, “Hired Hand”, “The Jerk”, “The Sting”, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, clambakes, lobster rolls, s'mores, camping in the Sierra Nevadas, land sailing in the Nevada desert, riding horseback in Canyon de Chelly; Walker Percy, Billie Holiday, Drag City, Chez Panisse/Alice Waters/slow food movement, David Crosby, Ralph Lauren,San Francisco Tape Music Center, Albert Brooks, Utah Phillips, Carol Moseley Braun, Bolinas CA, Ashland OR, Lawrence KS, Austin TX, Bainbridge Island WA, Marilyn Monroe, Mills College, Elizabeth Cotton, Carl Sandburg, the Orange Show in Houston, Toni Morrison, Texas Gladden, California College of Ayurvedic Medicine, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Saturday Night Live, Aaron Copland, Barack Obama, Oscar de la Renta, Alan Lomax, Joyce Carol Oates, Fred Neil, Henry Cowell, Barneys New York, Golden Gate Park, Musee Mechanique, Woody Guthrie, Maxfield Parrish, Malibu, Maui, Napa Valley, Terry Riley, drive-in movies, homemade blackberry ice cream from blackberries picked on my property, Lil Wayne, Walt Whitman, Halston, Lavender Ridge Grenache from Lodi CA, Tony Duquette, Julia Morgan, Lotta Crabtree, Empire Mine, North Columbia Schoolhouse, Disneyland, Nevada County Grandmothers for Peace; Roberta Flack, Randy Newman, Mark Helprin, Larry David, Prince; cooking on Thanksgiving; Shel Siverstein, Lee Hazlewood, Lee Radziwill, Jackie Onassis, E.B. White, William Carlos Williams, Jay Z, Ralph Stanley, Allen Ginsberg, Cesar Chavez, Harvey Milk, RFK, Rosa Parks, Arthur Miller, “The Simpsons”, Julia Child, Henry Miller, Arthur Ashe, Anne Bancroft, The Farm Midwifery Center in TN, Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey, Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, Clark Gable, Harry Nilsson, Woodstock, and some other stuff. Buuuut, the ol' U S of A can pull some pretty dick moves. I'm hoping it'll all come out in the wash...

  • 10 Are we all doomed?
  • If we keep our expectations pretty low I think we might be fine. I mean, we’re definitely all dying at some point. There’s no getting around that. But between now and then, things might start looking up!

This article first appeared in the 04 August 2008 issue of the New Statesman, China: The patriot games