Cass McCombs talks drifting and trying not to care in advance of his Entry show tonight

Categories: Interview
Cass McCombs could be considered the definition of Americana -- if continental influences, simultaneously channeled and undercut, could be called particularly American. Mistily folkish, reminiscent of soul, rock and roll when it needs to be; McCombs nebulizes it all into a sort of midsummer fog.

We spoke to Cass McCombs about the pretenses of troubadourism, songwriting, and not caring.

So the image that you've created, or people have labeled you, as a 'wanderer/troubadour' -- what actual age did you start, I guess, traveling?
I'm not really sure what that means -- 'traveling.'

A lot of material refers to you as a 'wanderer'...
I mean, so many musicians live this way. Pretty much all musicians I know live this way. I can't really afford an apartment and tour, so... it's just one or the other. When I'm not touring I'm making a record, and stationary.

So it's more like something people put on you.
I'm just like every other musician, you know, in that regard. I don't know why they don't mention that about other people...

So I guess Sum 41 are as troubadourish as Cass McCombs.

I'm wondering about the specifics of how you first got going. It was in Baltimore and New York, from California?
After a while of traveling I ended up in New York, I don't really remember. That's ancient history to me.

How were you able to do that, did you pack up a rucksack and hitchhike or... ?
A little bit of hitchhiking, um, but when you're young, you're just driving around, you know? That's what I wanted to do was just drift. I didn't go to college, I always thought that that would be the best school. Read the books that I want to read, and read them in interesting places. And meet people, and listen to them, and hear how other people are living.

How did you afford it?
Didn't have money, still don't. Doesn't take much really. How do you get $8? You just get it.

I think people are captivated by the idea of a sort of Kerouac-type person, and at least in my case you would over-think something like that to the point of impossibility. Does that make sense?
No, it doesn't make sense because most of my friends are exactly like me. It's hard to explain it because it's like, as plain as the nose on my face.

When did you start playing your first instrument?
I was raised around musicians so I started when I was a kid. Started with piano. Played a bunch of different instruments until I was like 13, started playing guitar, then started playing with other people.

Were your parents musicians?

What did they do with their musicianship?

I don't really want to talk about my parents.

So you were sort of self-taught? When did you start writing songs?
I took a lot of music lessons in junior high, elementary, high school -- so I wouldn't say I'm self-taught. I was, you know, reading music. And you don't just learn that on your own listening to Jimi Hendrix or whatever. But I don't know when I started writing. I think any musician, when they pick up an instrument, or find themselves in their instrument, they start to find their own voice. It's your voice coming through your instrument. It's why classical music, or folk music -- it's up to the interpretation of the performing. There's not one way to do "Dixie" -- you should do it your own way. The only way to do it is to do it your way. I think that's exactly what songwriting is -- it's a process of finding who you've always been.

That's always been my opinion of good art -- the best an artist can do is be themselves, and whether it resonates is out of their hands. Does that make sense?
I totally agree. So much pandering going on right now in art, everyone wants to be well-liked.

I don't know why but Shepard Fairey just popped in my head when you said that.
How do I know that name?

He did the blue cut-out-y poster of Obama that he got accused of plagiarism for. Anyways -- do you feel lucky that, for whatever reason, what you put out resonates?
I don't care.  

I just don't. I don't want to be disappointed when I come home and no one's calling, you know? I just try to wipe it from my brain and just enjoy myself and not worry about that whole head trip.

The Cass McCombs Band plays the 7th St. Entry tonight. 8PM Doors / 18+ / $12

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Location Info


7th St. Entry

701 1st Ave. N., Minneapolis, MN

Category: Music

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I wonder why the guy agreed to do the interview in the first place. He  should have spent the time looking in the mirror to perfect his I don't give a fuck and don't you know how cool I am attitude, for the camera, in print, he's just another self affected asshole.

Jon Schober
Jon Schober

Nonetheless, his songs really are brilliant. People know he is reclusive and doesn't like to talk about what his music means. One of the best quotes I read from him was that he makes this music for his friends and family and only them and if other people happen to enjoy it, good for them. 


I'm adding this to my list of "favorite moments in interviewing": Andrew Flanagan: "Why?"Deep questions, dude. I feel bad Cass had to waste 15 minutes of his day for this interview.

Nikki A Miller
Nikki A Miller

I'm adding this to my list of "favorite moments in interviewing": So I guess Sum 41 are as troubadourish as Cass McCombs.Ah--


Sounds like a really unique, thoughtful, and eloquent person with a lot to say. Some of my favorite responses include "I'm just like very other musician," "I don't really remember," "I don't care," "Yeah/Ah," and "no, it doesn't make sense, because most of my friends are just like me." Good luck combining your curt apathy with a career in entertaining and captivating people.


True, the interviewer was pretty weak in his questions. But McCombs was extremely dismissive and refused to elaborate. Sounds like a case of two people in a place neither wanted to be. 


He doesn't need luck; he's one of the best songwriters on the planet.


Ah yes, because a couple of good reviews makes someone the best at something. Maybe his writing is a lot better than his speaking, but to me it sounds like he doesn't care much about anything. Have fun paying to see this guy perform while he acts like it's a chore to be there. I'll stick to supporting artists who are interested in engaging their audience, not speaking at them.


this ought to be a trainwreck of a show, makes you want to see it happen.  maybe it's a reversed psychology thing to sell some tickets...

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