Mama's Mini-Interview with Jack Hwite

Jack Hwite’s raw intensity in his solo work grabbed me from my first listen of “Western Apocalypse Now” almost three years ago. His lonely banjo + his deep, gravely voice + powerful lyrics = musical brilliance. I have listened to his “Ballad of a Sky King” dozens of times and I cry every. single. time. (What the heck I just had to listen to it again right now to get the link to drop in this post and I’m freakin’ bawling. That is power!)

In case you missed Mama’s Mega Interview with Jack Hwite in The White People’s Quarterly: Vol. 1, No. 2, here’s a Mini-Interview to hold you over until can order that there publication.

1. When did you start making music?

I have always had a guitar lying round, and I've tinkered with songwriting in the past, but nothing serious. Jack Hwite was really an accident of fate. What happened was, in 2018 this 6-string banjo fell into my hands. I took to it, and all the despair, anger, and alienation I'd been feeling about what was happening came pouring out. It's hard to explain.

2. What inspires you to make music?

Art, and particularly music, has always had a very strong hold on me. It's transporting. As for inspiration, I think now I almost need some kind of pain or existential angst for the creative process to occur at all, because melody and lyricism can then serve as a meaningful and cathartic outlet. I'm not someone who is constantly inspired to create, at least not musically. I think the reason the stars aligned for me is because becoming awake to this nightmare we're living through provided both the emotional necessity, but also, crucially, THE subject for inspiration. I can't really imagine making music just for its own sake personally, certainly not now anyway. Music became exciting again because this a time in which you can actually break free from the tainted and jaded past and create something artistically original, and potentially revolutionary, for us. The new paradigm is inspiring.

3. Can you tell me a little bit about your process?

Well, it's very difficult to not sound pretentious talking about this, especially given my music is so stripped down and basic, but here we go... I think the best way to describe it is to think of it as a drug. Generally, what I'm looking for is a melody that is sweet and seamless enough to sort of seduce me. When that happens, I will compulsively play it over and over, and work on it. It has to be immersive so I get the focus I need to create and craft the lyrics. This can take place in an evening or over the course of weeks/months, picking it back up, but I need that fixation to complete it. Lyrics are something I obsess over, and it gets satisfying once they start to take form. I want them to heighten and drive home the melody's emotional effect, and ideally, provide an overarching concept to nail the whole thing together cohesively. You want a complementary marriage between the melody and the lyrics for optimal effect. And this is how I get my kicks, lol.

To get some kicks from Jack—go HERE: xo


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