Chris Whitley

Interview by Joyce Peters

July 1998
Reprinted courtesy of Taconic Press

I caught up with Whitley before the show. We sit outside on the grass reminiscing about our meeting last spring at the Towne Crier. Since then, Whitley has toured almost constantly, for his “Terra Incognita” album and now for his “Dirt Floor” album.

JP: How do you find solace while performing six nights a week?
CW: Mostly being with my daughter. By playing [guitar] at my hotel. I have to write while on the road, but I don’t always feel like I have enough time – or space in my head for it.

JP: Last time we spoke, you said reaching more people was important to you. Why is that?
CW: I write selfishly, but the impetus is that it resonates with other people. Money is a side effect. People need music on different levels. Music mostly doesn’t have to do with the brain or emotions; it’s the subconscious. Emotions are surface level. There are things underneath that are more complicated.

JP: What’s it going to take to reach more people?
CW: Patience. Time. And to be committed enough. It’s a trial and error process. Music is about vision. Clarifying my own vision and sound is an active process; it’s not talking or dreaming about it. I want to move a lot of people. I’m not crawling back to the top, since I’ve never been to the top. I’m also not afraid of falling.

JP: What adjectives would people who really know you use to describe you?
CW: Sweet and angry [laughs]. I have a serious degree of anger when I get riled. It might be musical frustration. Trixie [his daughter] calls me sweet. I am sweet. I’m a loving person.

JP: What do you want to happen next?
CW: More than anything, I want to make music that sounds like I’m from another planet, but so good that I don’t have to play anything from my last 4 records. I think I’ll move to the desert.

JP: What’s the connection between music and the desert?
CW: My soul. I want to walk on the red dirt.