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Seasick Steve

Does art make a difference?

To what? You know, I don't have a lot to do with art, to tell you the truth - I just play the guitar. When some people talk about music they say art, but I just play music. I play songs about my life - if someone else wants to call it art, that's up to them.

Should politics and art mix?

I don't think politics has nothing to do with art. If a politician came in the room I'd probably go out the other side. I play music and before that I was doing a normal job. The last time I had anything to do with politics was in 1968 when they killed Bobby Kennedy.

I keep my head down. Tried to live outside the system my whole life. When George Bush got elected I left America - I figured if there was an idiot running the show I'd just leave.

Does money corrupt an artist?

Money corrupts everybody. I've never met one person who's got money who doesn't think they're special. Money's like a tool, but most people think it's some sign of their power. It's just a tool, like a hammer or a wrench.

Which artist do you most admire, and why?

Son House made me want to play the guitar. Delta bluesmen and people like Hank Williams wrote about their life and it came bleeding out, because their music was their life and their life was their music, there was no separation. That's why it's so powerful and why it's lasted so long.

If you weren't an artist, what would you be?

Dead. I would have liked to have done . . . I would like to have been a farmer a little bit. I kind of like working on the land.

If you were world leader, what would be your first law?

I can't even imagine that. Most of these people are so crazy and strange in the first place that they're like polluted almost from the beginning. You know they like power. I've been around a long time now and I have not met one that ain't got like all kinds of strange issues. It's like they're almost a different creature. So you might almost be asking if I was a Martian.

Who would be your top advisers?

You guys have got a crazy fuckin' newspaper, I'll tell you that right now! You're living in imagination land.

I'd have my wife. There I have a straight-up person - I've met one straight-up person in my life and that's my wife. If she was the leader of the world, it would be a lot better.

What are the rules you live by?

Mainly try not to hurt people around you as much as you can, try not to rip people off. Try to live so that you're not stepping on people's toes. Just try to take care of myself and in the process not do anybody wrong, and help people out once in a while.

Do you love your country?

I've been a man without a country most of my life, in the sense that I lived outside of it. When I was younger I was an angry young man, I didn't have a lot of love. Now I know the country's made up of a lot of people - it ain't even the leaders, it's just all the people collected together. I'm more into loving the world, I'm really not into nationalism.

Are we all doomed?

Sure, we're all doomed, but we're going to live here a while anyway, so try to be happy and do your best. No one gets out of here alive!

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2009 issue of the New Statesman, Obama: What the world expects...