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But didn't someone recently yell out "Free Bird"?
"Oh, yeah. It happens all the time," he says.
Why anyone would want to scream "Free Bird" during a set from one of the world's most introspective singers is anyone's guess. But it's evident they've not fully listened to LaMontagne, nor have they fully tasted his exquisite Grain.
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Led by the single "You Are the Best Thing" (yes, you heard it in the movie I Love You, Man) and seconded by the stunning "Let It Be Me" (on programs Eli Stone and Fringe), Grain takes much of the paleness LaMontagne has developed over the years and casts it in a much brighter shade. The LP is far from being completely cheerful — but there does seem to be a certain smile behind it. Has Ray LaMontagne actually become a happy person?
"I would say that generally I am a happy person," he replies. "More recently than in the past. I still have my bouts of down time, and every once in a while a certain kind of darkness will descend. But I've learned that it's not gonna last and that I always get through it. But generally I feel really lucky. I feel really blessed."
LaMontagne goes on to explain he's most happy when he's at home. "I just love to do everyday things — be in the country and work around the farm. I get a lot of enjoyment outta that," he continues. Farm, like in animals? "Yeah, goats and sheep and chickens. It's really more a hobby actually."
Old MacDonald aside, this newfound happiness is best conveyed in Grain's "Meg White," his full-fledged tribute to the one and only better half of the White Stripes. Like the Stripes — and quite unlike the singer's previous efforts — the song's got a distinct bounce to it. Hell, some might say it actually struts.
And, believe it or not, the song's sentiment seems something like a schoolboy crush: "Someday I'd like to take a walk with you," LaMontagne sings. "And talk about most anything you'd like to talk about... Maybe ride our bikes down by the seaside, to watch the sun going down." It's a giddy bit of head-over-heels, at once heartfelt and whimsical. And it's undoubtedly the most cheerful LaMontagne has ever been. But why?
"Well, you never really know why you write a song about anything. It just kinda popped into my head like other songs," he says. "But I am a fan of the White Stripes, and I'm a particular fan of hers. I think she's really great, and there's a certain childish, playful quality to the music. I really appreciate that. It's something I don't have. That's probably why I like their music so much. It's so very different from mine."
Has LaMontagne actually come clean about a crush? Then again, he's coming clean about something he's sung about, which means he's still coming back to the songs. And it's in song where we should be staying all along if, that is, we want to get to the soul of this troubadour.