I busked a few times in Asheville, North Carolina, when I was 18. It was terrifying. I was probably just trying to meet girls.
I had been living with my family in France as COVID was starting to spiral out of control in Europe. I said to my wife that maybe they should come back to the States with me because I was worried about getting separated.
I thought I was going to play soccer in college.
For whatever reason, you gravitate to certain subjects, and I read a lot of history.
If I’m not working on music, I’m probably torturing my infant daughter, Ingrid, with kisses or running or playing soccer in the park.
The National guys will tell you the same thing – I tend to work until the last possible minute.
I grew up fly fishing when I was a kid. The feeling of it is fun. I went fly-fishing on Lake Delaware once, and I caught a record brook trout.
One of the hardest things about being a musician is finishing a project and then having to wait three or six months to publish it and to do all the sort of promotional behaviour.
I used to think of ‘alternative rock’ as a radio format, kind of the way ‘indie rock’ used to have more meaning. But it means different things depending on where you are or what country you’re in.
Just because you listen to The National, Spotify might tell you that you want to listen to The Lumineers’ music. Well, maybe you don’t.
It’s very exciting to have a festival in the heart of Boston. It’s an amazing experience to be in a city and to be able to walk in and out of a festival. I think that’s part of what’s going to make Boston Calling really special.
The National’s favorite experiences as musicians are when we are collaborating with people a little outside of our world as a band.
I’m probably more obsessed with football that I am with music.
When you’re working with someone new, it takes a second to understand their instincts and range. It’s not really conscious.
Anyone who’s speaking up about anything becomes a target.
After years of touring you experience music festivals that are mostly the same – where you copy and paste the same experience into a muddy field in California or a muddy field in England.
Big Red Machine is really a community effort: I guess it involves almost 30 musicians. It does come out of our friendship, but it’s really something that is deeply collaborative.
My wife is from Copenhagen and her father has been a huge Liverpool supporter since the early 1960s.
Our recordings, you feel that it’s been, not labored, but you feel that it’s been constructed in a way where sometimes it’s hard for us to create the feeling that this was done in a room.
Whenever I write anything, I do sing to it, to try and make sure it’s interesting or compelling to sing to. I’ve gotten in the habit of sharing that with other, more charismatic vocalists.
I tried hard not to think about the scope or scale of making a record that would be heard by millions and millions of people. I did a pretty good job of tuning that out.
Sometimes my brother and I – we’re twins, and sometimes we joke that we’re like a two-headed monster. We can be hard to deal with because we don’t break ranks; we stick together.
It’s actually not that hard to play guitar in a rock band.
There’s no one songwriter in the band. It’s collaborative, and we all have different tastes.
I always want to have time to experiment, and have transitional things, and have these weird non-songs, but usually the stuff I’m working on comes down to this weird deadline, where it just never happens, and it’s kind of a bummer.
Music for me is an emotional necessity. It’s therapy. It’s what I live and breathe.
Seven’ is this kind of nostalgic, emotional folk song.
I kind of love opening, because it’s easier and kind of just more fun to get up and play fast and furious and have a good time.
One of the negative sides of a really intense arc as a touring band is there are big gaps in your memory because you’re so exhausted.
I do have a way of playing piano where it’s very melodic and emotional, but then often it’s great if whoever’s singing doesn’t sing exactly what’s in the piano melody, but maybe it’s connected in some way.
I think the idea is that every time we perform Big Red Machine music it should be different somehow – like, different people, different songs maybe, definitely different versions of the songs.
Die Like a Rich Boy’ has, for me, some of the strongest lyrical content I’ve heard in many years; an epic love song laced with dark imagery and acerbic social criticism.
And my parents live down in West Virginia, and I have to drive through the Shenandoah Valley pretty often to go visit them. You actually drive right by Gettysburg and some other spots where there were huge battles.
From the very beginning, we just sort of made things up together. That’s one of the great things about having a twin brother; you have a sort of feedback loop, where you can bounce things off of each other.
White people need to wake up and tell the truth about US history and the inequality and the ways in which racism is so entrenched.
Sometimes you become the person people try to pin you into a corner to be, which is not really fair.
The great thing about being on tour is that… the band plays at night and other than that we have a lot of free time.
But I’d say recording and playing on stage are two completely different things. Being up there in front of all those people is like jumping off a cliff into icy water. The recording process is a totally different energy.
I’m very fortunate and grateful to wake up every morning in the rural countryside I live in, looking at farmland and these beautiful mountains.
There are some things that you see that are hard to talk about. You can’t talk about it. You just bear witness to them.
I think for me to be involved in a festival, there has to be a strong element of songwriting and musicianship.
The song ‘Hymnostic’ is kind of a gospel song, and that song is really fun to sing with as many people as possible. And anyone can sing it, you know?
We wanted to create an opportunity for people to share anything, on their own terms, revenue and all. Get away from the commerce side of music, which can be exciting and necessary but ultimately dilutes the creative impulse. The further and further you go down that path is sometimes the further you are from the reason why you started making music.
There are people who want to hear what they consider your hits. There are people who want you to experiment and explore random, rare things. And it’s kind of a different; they’re two different beasts.
There have definitely been phases of the National, many years ago, where we did party, and various people, in their own way, fell off the wagon.
David Longstreth is one of the great guitar heroes of our generation.
Our writing, especially during ‘Boxer’ – the recording process was the writing process, which is not the way I would advise anyone else to do it.
I guess I like minor chords better than major ones, in general.
There are so many books out about Abraham Lincoln out now because it’s the bicentennial of his birth. I’ve known a lot about the Civil War, but I’m just getting more into it.