Los Angeles Times’ music critic Robert Hilburn nabs an exclusive interview with Bono in New York and gets an earful.
Unfortunately, Hilburn’s must-read interview, titled “Where craft ends and spirit begins,” may only be accessed online at the LA Times web site by subscription.
When a web site that is less concerned about copyright permission than we are posts the full article, we’ll point you to it. (And here we point!) In the meantime, we can offer these interesting highlights:
We return to Bono and Hilburn driving through NYC traffic, listening to the new U2 album:
As the vocal starts, he [Bono] sings along. But it’s so noisy in the car you can’t really make out the words. Bono’s expression, however, tells you he’s very proud of this album. He suddenly stops singing and begins chuckling as he turns down the volume. “Did you hear that last verse? … You never write a verse like that. That was definitely improvised. But there are other lines in the song I wrote ahead of time.”
When the songs are finished, Bono looks at the disc.
“Lou Reed is a friend and I once asked if he had advice for a young poet, and, in his usual cryptic way, he summed it up, ‘Break rhyme occasionally.’ ”
Bono laughs as the van pulls to a stop.
“You know, songwriting really is a mysterious process … because we’re asking people to expose themselves. It’s like open heart surgery in some way. You’re looking for real, raw emotions, and you don’t find that by sticking to the rules.”
On songwriting, Bono had more to say:
“Feelings are stronger than ideas or words in a song. You can have 1,000 ideas, but unless you capture an emotion, it’s an essay. I’m always writing speeches or articles for causes I believe in. That’s probably what I would have done if I wasn’t in music, but that’s not songwriting. Songwriting comes from a different place. Music is the language of the spirit. I think ideas and words are our excuse as songwriters to allow our heart or our spirit to run free. That’s when magic happens.”