Lots of Conor Oberst news today:
Billboard reported this morning that Oberst signed a deal with Merge to release his first solo record since ’96’s Soundtrack to My Movie. According to Billboard: “The self-titled set is due Aug. 4 and was recorded in January and February in Tepoztlan, Mexico. Oberst is backed on the project by the Mystic Valley Band, the members of whom have not been named. Longtime collaborator Andy LeMaster assisted with the recording, which Oberst produced.” The full story is here.
The CD is a departure for Oberst on many levels — it wasn’t recorded at ARC, it wasn’t produced by Mike Mogis and it won’t come out on Saddle Creek. It’ll be interesting to hear how those differences impact the music, and what it means to the future of Bright Eyes, which in most people’s minds, was a Conor Oberst solo project (with side players) to begin with. There are going to be those who ask, “How could he put something out on a label other than Creek and his own Team Love?” Hey, we’re talking Merge Records here, which over the past two or three years has emerged as the leader among indies. I have a feeling that the record ended up on Merge much the same way Jenny Lewis’ solo record ended on Team Love — the result of a conversation. Conor probably was talking to Mac McCaughan or Laura Ballance and one of them suggested that, hey, you should do a solo record and put it out on Merge. And Conor said “Why not?” followed by “Who’s gonna tell Robb.”
On top of that, I got my new issue of Rolling Stone yesterday and on the cover, sharing space with a dozen or so others, was Oberst. It’s Stone‘s annual “best of” issue, and Oberst was named “Best Songwriter.” Among the comments from the story: “The quality and breadth of Oberst’s songwriting have provoked comparisons to Bob Dylan – an IED of a compliment that exploded the careers of many promising artists before him. Oberst is flattered but not fazed. Now twenty-eight, he pauses for a full ten seconds when asked how his songwriting has changed since adolescence. ‘It’s strange how similar it is,’he says with a laugh. ‘It’s still mysterious to me.'” Read the whole story (written by Anthony Decurtis) here.
I was reading this and thinking that despite the honor, Oberst continues to be flying under the general-public radar. He still hasn’t done a “musical guest” spot on Saturday Night Live (My Morning Jacket is next in the barrel; can Matt Ward be far behind?); and he’s never been given a solo Rolling Stone cover. Is it a scheduling issue? Could be. Probably. Or it could be that he doesn’t want that limelight, though the last person to care about such things is probably Oberst himself.
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The Waiting Room launched a new website this morning that’s a lot easier to navigate (and works better on my iPhone). Check it out at waitingroomlounge.com.
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