Smile Politely

Explore possibilities with Bill Callahan at the Rose Bowl

Bill Callahan portrait. He is pictured wearing a dark collared shirt with a bold pattern and a baseball hat. He looks into the camera with a blank expression. There is a ghost image effect that has a faint outline of his face to the right of the in-focus face. That ghost image shows him without a hat, eyes closed, smirking. The image is filtered in a pale orange.
Hanly Banks Callahan

Bill Callahan is a singer-songwriter known for a decades-long career making music that is interesting both sonically and lyrically. He is playing the Rose Bowl Tavern Tuesday, March 7th, with Pascal Kerong’A, a Congolese singer-songwriter. Both artists offer a relatively mellow, vibey experience that will likely leave you in a contemplative mood. It should be a refreshing, enriching, and perhaps even transformative Tuesday night experience. 

You’ll hear music from Callahan’s new album, YTI⅃AƎЯ (2022), his 23rd. The Guardian reviewed the album in October and gave it four stars; it’s a good synopsis of what you can expect to hear. 

I recently corresponded with Callahan about his year and his career. Our interview is below.  

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Smile Politely: What in 2023 are you most excited about?

Bill Callahan: Making music. Exploring the possibilities. Learning to see the obvious. 

SP: What are you listening to these days?

Callahan: Bill Evans, Merle Haggard.

SP: What has changed the most since you started making music? What changes excite you the most?

Callahan: The streaming thing really dismantled my worldview. It’s kinda cyborg-y. One of the tech developments that we didn’t need. That actually makes life less, not more.

And lots more bands these days. Harder to book tours because of it.

SP: Who are some artists/musicians/bands that are inspirational to you?

Callahan: Iggy Pop, Mary Margaret O’Hara. 

SP: What are some unexpected influences and how have they manifested in your work?

Callahan: I can take in just about anything and get something out of it. Except a few corny pop stars — the Biebers, the Swifts. There’s nothing there.

SP: What do you find most rewarding and most frustrating about touring?

Callahan: Making something out of nothing. Frustrating is sometimes being a victim of your body. You want to do a good show but you’re so goddamn tired or have a sinus infection. Or the sound is bad on stage and you can’t figure out how to make it better, so you can’t let yourself go.

SP: What are some of your favorite festivals or venues?

Callahan: I don’t really have any favorite venues. Cropped Out is a good festival in Louisville but it’s on hiatus.

SP: Is there somewhere you haven’t played that you’d like to?

Callahan: I’d love to do tiny villages in Japan.

Bill Callahan with Pascal Kerong’A
Rose Bowl Tavern
106 N Race St
Tu Mar 7th, doors at 8 p.m., show at 9 p.m.
Tickets $30


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