He’s a purist and that’s not easy to pull off.
Q. People seem surprised that you’re not an old African-American man.
A. Yeah, one of those things that I make certain with my publicity people and label is that I’m not somebody who wants my face on park benches and on the covers of my records. I’d much rather people be tied to the music rather than image. I think images do a disservice to the imaginative connection people can have with music. It doesn’t allow your imagination room to grow.
Q. There’s a bunch of fairly like-minded throwback folk artists out there now such as Iron & Wine, Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom. Is this a positive trend you see developing?
A. It doesn’t matter to me. It’s just encouraging to hear a good song in the universe. It doesn’t matter to me if people are picking up on it or not. The reason I leave the marketplace to my manager and label is because I’m simply not that interested. A long time ago I used to have a subscription to Rolling Stone. I used to think, ‘Why isn’t Vic Chesnutt on the cover? Why isn’t John Fahey?’ I’ve lucked out. I have great people working for me who cover the marketplace for me. I think it poisons a lot of people’s songwriting when they get too tangled up in selling.