Interview: Exploring The Songwriting Process With Julian Casablancas

by Eric Van Dril · 13 comments

American Songwriter conducted an interview with Julian Casablancas before a show in Nashville. The interview was posted this morning and, in my eyes, it’s one of the more insightful interviews he’s ever given about his craft.

I’ll post three excerpts following this paragraph, but just in order to entice you into clicking the link above, other topics discussed include: The need for isolation while working on music, the mutual love between Julian and Arctic Monkeys and which band would be the most popular in Julian’s utopia.

I know you can play a lot of instruments and you played a lot of different things on Phrazes For The Young. Is there some particular thing you find yourself picking up more often to write with — a guitar, a piano, a sampler?

I pick up whatever’s near, I guess. The thing I use a lot now [reaches in pocket and pulls out a matching digital recorder to the one I am using to record the interview ] –- cheers, ding -– is this digital recorder thing. I used to do everything by memory back in the day. I don’t know, some fascination with the Greek poets, you know they just memorized everything. So I’d be working between one and three parts, or songs, at a time. But when I started a few years ago recording stuff, I realized listening back, the things I thought were great were sometimes mediocre -– and the things I forgot about, that I thought were nothing, were great. And it kind of freaked me out. So now I record everything, and I have thousands of [recordings]- so I just play all the time and if I feel like I’m doing something that could be cool I just record it. Give work for future Julian. That’s what I do.

Do you find yourself writing much, when you are on the road?

More than ever before on this tour actually. Its been pretty great. Yeah the drummer, he kind of made a song. We called it “Beat” but it was pretty elaborate. We worked on it together — it was kind of rad -– so I’ve been relatively productive, way more than ever before on the road.

When you were a kid did you hear a particular song, riding in a friend’s car or something, and it kind of made a connection, where you thought you might want to start making music?

Yeah actually, my best friend kind of. His brother had a friend who got a bootleg of like – what was that B-side at the time… “Yellow Ledbetter?” It was…

Oh yeah Pearl Jam, I remember that.

But he had like a tape, it sounded terrible at the time. You could barely make out… [imitates Eddie Vedder singing momentarily] …it was very muffled. But that song was the first time I like, felt weird… that music reached deeper. Not that I never really… I mean… I liked music. But [up to that point] it was never the main thing in my life. That was the first song where I felt weirdly moved by it.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Olivia July 30, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Loaded is my favorite VU record too!

2 Ha July 30, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Awesome interview. And Julian even said Rumi’s his fav poet! 😀 That just made my whole month haha.

3 Pat July 30, 2010 at 8:03 pm

Great interview!
I like how they linked back to an answer the Arctic Monkeys gave about Julian, literally.
Thanks for posting it Eric!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

4 Jordan July 31, 2010 at 1:27 am

HELL YEAH HE GAVE MATT HELDER’S SOME LOVE! Finally another musician recognizes that guy!

5 Jocelyne August 1, 2010 at 2:13 pm

oh…just awesome! thanks for posting Eric! That is why I always come back here!
keep up – and…did anyone ever think about…all these tapes of jules recordings…how cool would that be to hear, mmm – guess we will have to wait 50 years or so…

6 Guy August 1, 2010 at 9:42 pm

I just love interviews about songwriting.

7 Sarah May 7, 2011 at 2:04 pm

What happened to the link? it leads to nothing but an error

8 Kenza May 17, 2011 at 11:39 am

Argh the link doesn’t work for me, either 😐 Please, please try to fix this.

9 Kenza May 17, 2011 at 11:44 am

The problem with your link was that it said /2010/07/drinks … instead of /08/

10 Kenza May 17, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Such a good interview! I agree that it’s really insightful, and he said some things that I could really relate to… Anyway, I’ll stop commenting now.

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13 jules April 8, 2016 at 9:39 pm


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