STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
The musician Conor Oberst says he's not deliberately thinking about fleeing home. He doesn't think of it consciously, yet it keeps coming up in his songs.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "THERE'S NOTHING THAT THE ROAD CANNOT HEAL")
M: (Singing) There's nothing that the road cannot heal, There's nothing that the road cannot heal...
INSKEEP: He wrote about a road trip and about the healing power of the road, and about escape.
M: Traveling and movement has been a real big part of my life - or my adult life, anyway. And to me it's - there's a lot of optimism in changing scenery and, you know, that's, I guess, what keeps me going.
INSKEEP: And for his self-titled solo album, Conor Oberst escaped the United States. At the age of 28, Oberst has already recorded many albums, mostly with a popular group called Bright Eyes. This time, he recorded on the grounds of a vacant hotel in Mexico. He went from his native Omaha, Nebraska, to a town known for its Aztec pyramid.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "CAPE CANAVERAL")
M: (Singing) Oh, oh, oh over the totem pole I saw your legends lined up And I never felt more natural Apart, I just came apart...
INSKEEP: One thing that comes to mind listening to this recording is it sounds like you're in a big, open space?
M: Yeah, we did a lot of recording outside, actually, because the property we rented was basically a small, villa-style hotel which had, I guess, four houses on it. So, we turned the biggest house into the studio, and then we lived in the others. But we ended up doing a lot of the recording on the porch and actually, outside, I sang in a hammock for some of the vocal takes, you know.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
INSKEEP: What's that do for your diaphragm, to be in a hammock when you're trying to sing?
M: I don't know the science of it, but it sure was comfortable.
M: (Singing) Like the freon cold out the hotel door Or the white rocket fade over Cape Canaveral You've been a daughter to me You buried shoe-box grief I felt your poltergeist love like Savannah heat While the waterfall was pouring Crazy symbols of my destiny...
INSKEEP: And so, you were outside under the stars, it's at night?
M: Yeah. We did a lot of recording at night, and you can hear the crickets. And we were a little outside of the town, which was called Tapaslan(ph). And down there, they have a real affinity for fireworks, so you can also hear thuds of fireworks in the distance. And I always like it when music exists in kind of an atmosphere, and not just the sterile environment of a studio.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "SAUSALITO")
M: (Singing) Hair blowing in the hot wind, Time hanging from a clothespin There's no sorrow that the sun's not gonna help I smell the leather of your new car Drive through the desert after nightfall Sleep on the shoulder, keep the stars all to ourselves...
INSKEEP: Time hanging from a clothespin, there's no sorrow the sun's not gonna help. Somebody driving along in a car and you can smell the leather seats - so vivid.
M: I suppose so.
INSKEEP: Did it happen?
M: To some extent. You know, a lot of songs - they're not all explicit events. I borrow from conversations or other experiences. To me, everything kind of goes into your subconscious and blends together and comes out in these dreamlike ways, you know, which is what songs are, I think.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
INSKEEP: Is there a story behind a very specific song that you put on this album, the first line of which is, I don't want to die in the hospital.?
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "I DON'T WANT TO DIE (IN THE HOSPITAL)")
M: (Singing) I don't want to die in the hospital I don't want to die in the hospital I don't want to die in the hospital You gotta take me back outside.
M: Yeah, there is a story behind that song. I have a friend who celebrated his 75th birthday. And when he talks about death, you know, he knows he doesn't want to die there, someplace that's - has no dignity. He wants to be out, you know, in the desert, under the stars.
INSKEEP: Making music in Mexico, maybe?
M: Maybe so. If he's ever in that situation, he wanted me to come and break him out. So...
INSKEEP: So, he made a request?
M: Yeah, it's a jailbreak song.
M: (Singing) Help me get my boots on Help me get my boots on Help me get my boots back on Help me get my boots on Help me get my boots on Help me get my boots back on I gotta go, go, go Cause I don't have long
INSKEEP: The artist is Conor Oberst, which is also the name of his latest album. You can hear a full concert from Conor Oberst and his band or just grab the podcast on our Web site, nprmusic.org
M: Yeah, I ain't gonna die in this hospital No, I ain't gonna die in this hospital No, I ain't gonna die in this hospital You gonna take me back outside
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