Two musical masterminds armed with pseudonyms — Will Oldham (AKA Bonnie "Prince" Billy) and Emmett Kelly (AKA the Cairo Gang) — will bravely head south, past the Florida state line, to mercifully provide us with a complimentary, quality concert this Tuesday.
The pair's Free Florida Tour will introduce us ignorant crackers to the kind of timeless, soulful country music that is already valued by Brooklynites and middle Americans. The show will go down at local record store Sweat Records.
New Times recently spoke with Oldham about why he's gracing Florida with his presence. Then we harassed him about cover songs, his new album, and funeral homes.
Free Florida Tour
The Free Florida Tour: With Bonnie "Prince" Billy and the Cairo Gang. 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 31, at Sweat Records, 5505 NE Second Ave., Miami; 786-693-9309; sweatrecordsmiami.com. Admission is free.
New Times: Is there any particular reason you targeted Florida for this tour?
Will Oldham: Florida has never been able to successfully arrange shows south of Tampa before. It always felt like Florida was playing hard-to-get. And I thought, we're gonna just do it. And the way to do it right is to be determined and focused and not incorporate it into a tour of the Southeast. But just focus on Florida and we'll get it done.
I [also] like the adventure of touring. I like the idea of learning about the places where we go. The infrastructure for record stores or clubs is different in Florida. It's different, and so it means that it's still kind of a frontier. And part of the reason I think that a lot of folks go on the road in the first place is to go out and explore, learn things. You can only learn so much from Cincinnati or Columbus. There is a boatload of untapped knowledge, I believe, in the mysterious, murky state of Florida.
You do a lot of cover songs. Is it a way to take a song and make it new? Or is it a form of flattery?
It's great to write songs. But it's crucial to keep songs alive as well, and to keep the awareness of songs and the awareness of artists alive. And then, of course, there's always the reality that there are things that one songwriter can do that another songwriter just can't do. And that doesn't mean you are forbidden from accessing this world. You discover the song and you learn from every song that you cover.
Your album with the Phantom Family Halo, Mindeaters, came out last week. How did you guys meet and decide to make this album?
Phantom Family Halo, until just a couple months ago, has been based in Louisville. Now they're based out of New York City. A good friend of mine, Todd Brashear, runs a local video store called Wild and Woolly Video, and he had his 13th-anniversary show about a year ago. Roky Erickson was headlining, and Phantom Family was also on the bill, and we all had the idea to cover this Everly Brothers song called "I Wonder If I Care as Much." It was just a really good experience.
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So a few months later, Dominic from Phantom Family Halo got in touch and said, "We've decided to record this song." And then he's like, "I've got an idea for a way of releasing this song. And I've got these other songs I've been working on that I think would work really well with that song. And I've got an idea of how to record them."
At the time, his girlfriend was a mortician and they lived upstairs at the funeral home where she works. We just went over there and recorded up in the apartment above the funeral home.
That is spooky but kind of awesome.
A spooky and kind of rundown old funeral home. Definitely not a high-class place.