Devendra Banhart Wore an Issey Miyake Dress to Record His New Album

The perfect example is the song that may mean the most to me on the record called “Charger.” Because I had this chorus, Everything’s burning down, and I needed another line. There needed to be some hope. I didn’t know what it was. I just kept thinking about it. Without knowing that I’m even working on that, Cate naturally says, “I’ve always had this line: The grass is always green.” I was just like, “Holy shit. Yes. Can I please use that in that?” That chorus is half my line, half Cate’s, and it makes the song.

I think that’s a small example of how the whole record came to be and the collaborative element of the whole thing. I spend 99% of my time alone, I’m not going around collaborating, and it was so nice.

That was another question I wanted to ask. Between writing your music and your art practice, you seem to work in solitude for the majority of the time. How do you balance that isolation with collaboration?

Touring is, in many ways, like a summer camp reunion or even the most social I’ll be for the whole year because I’m really there with my chosen family. The people in the band are my friends, but the rest of the time is pretty solitary work. In Sigrid Nunez’s last book What Are You Going Through, she has this line: “Every writer walks around with a banner that reads loneliness.” I was like, Oh, goddamn. Yeah, I can relate to that.

It’s part of the gig. You can have a family of a thousand people, but you’re still going to have to cultivate something like a type of loneliness or a type of space in order to work. It is really important to follow through with this type of loneliness. If you don’t explain what kind of loneliness you mean, it just sounds like, “What a shitty life.” You’re torturing yourself. You’re shooting yourself in the foot constantly in order to make art, like, “I need to suffer from my art.” Which is a cliche, of course, that I think is a mainstream cliche that the world has about making any type of art.

The reality is that it’s a very healthy cultivation of a type of loneliness that is more like a sanctuary. Solitude as a sanctuary. Solitude as a way of actually, ironically, connecting with other people because you’re getting so in touch with yourself that you’re reaching something beyond your identity. I’ve gone kind of extreme, and I live alone, and I just have this … My work. My house is built for working. Most of the time, it’s in that zone. I’m obviously not painting with anyone, and I’m barely writing with someone. Tour is such a beautiful opportunity to be around my chosen family. With the record with Cate, I kept some space. In that space, so much of Cate’s writing and artistry emerged. That’s why it became so collaborative.

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