English and Americans on the roofs

It is from time to time that you take decisions that reshape what you have in hands. Today we have taken one. We have decided to publish articles in languages other than spanish without translating them, as we do with our main language. As we interview the artists in their native tongue, mainly spanish or english, we shall publish articles on either language to suit our different readers. We start these rounds with a piece written by Gabriela Rey, who interviewed Jackson Browne in Jimena last July, on the roofs of the football stadium, overlooking the village.

Still running on empty

By Gabriela Rey

As every year, the music festival in Jimena de La Frontera has brought some of the best musicians in the world to this little corner of Spain. One of the projects on stage this year was a ´Tribute to Leonard Cohen` offered at the football stadium, including Jackson Browne among many other great artists. 

I have always loved Jackson Browne’s lyrics and could not believe my luck when offered the opportunity to speak to him in person.  

We had to wait until the end of the concert to go back stage and even though there was a bus-load of artists waiting to leave, Jackson Browne took the time to chat with me on the roof of the stadium…


How did you come to be involved in this tribute to Leonard Cohen?
Well… Alberto Manzano was and is probably the foremost translator of English lyrics into Spanish and I’ve known him for a long, long time. Really it was all because I found a book that he had written about my songs and every time I came to Spain, I would look for him. I finally met him and we became great friends and it is probably because of him that I came to have an apartment here in Barcelona. He translated Leonard Cohen’s lyrics and Bob Dylan’s and he has books on Patti Smith and on country lyrics. He has written about thirty books, writing about the music and translating the lyrics. Many of the songs sung here are his translations into Spanish.

And he involved you in the world of Spanish music.
Yes. He worked on a record with Enrique Morente where they did some Leonard Cohen also. One song that Leonard did in particular was based on Lorca.

Are you expecting to see Leonard Cohen with you on stage on this tour?
He can’t because he is working on an album of new songs… which is what I ought to be doing… (laughs).

What about yourself, what are you doing now?
I am now in the stage of completion of one album and I have actually just completed another that I recorded in Spain in a number of cities, including Barcelona.

You have been making music for thirty years now.  Do you feel that the world that you have always known is going the right way, is real music disappearing?
No, I don’t feel that way at all.  I feel that in the mainstream of media, you know, it gets very samey. There has always been a market where people try to capture the most sales. It’s just like the movies, you know, where they check out the audiences to see how they want it to end. They are just looking out for the largest audience and they do not really care what the script writer wants to state.
That has always been true; it is just so relevant now, because the business is so gigantic, the media is so big and “all controlling”. Really, when you look at the mainstream media, it’s the same for politics; it’s the same for art. You have one person deciding what millions of people will see or hear. There are twelve hundred radio stations in the USA that have the same person programming all of them. Imagine how many people are probably listening and it is all the same! So that is what is happening, but it is happening in politics and media also, as in describing the events of the day and who said what and what actually happened.

How do you see the world today?
I think that the world is in a very bad way… Let me take it back to Leonard for a second, because there are a couple of songs of his… such as the one that says that “democracy is coming to the USA …” you know, really the States does what it does, claiming that it is doing it on behalf of democracy, when it’s not, it’s not at all! And what is really happening is quite another thing, and yet… Leonard has had the power to say that democracy is coming to the USA first because this is where they have a spiritual thirst. It is an incredible description of all that we say that we believe in but have yet to bring about, so it is one of the most powerful political statements from someone who normally keeps a distance from making much prescribed political pronouncements. But even so, for all that is going on in the world, there are still some very wonderful things happening also, building bridges between people and bringing people to uncover the beauty of what is around us.

Do you still write about beauty and ugliness?
Yes, I do (smiles).

So can we expect something new in short?
In the coming year, in the next year. I have been sort of delayed in starting because of the two albums that I produced this year. One are the live shows in Spain, which took a big chunk out of my time, although the whole thing was a pleasure. That is called “Live in Spain” and it is David Lindley and me, live in Spain. In one way it is a celebration of the chemistry between David and me, but we are also playing with Tino de Geraldo, and some of the people here, like Kiko Veneno and Luz Casal or Carlos Nuñez.

So you have a lot of contact with Spanish musicians?
Yes, a lot of these people are my good friends.

You probably have some really good “get-together’s” after the shows on tour together.
Yes we do. And I really enjoy being in this part of Spain. It is very special.

To finish, do you see yourself doing a running on empty tour again?
It is practically what we have done on this live album in Spain. We play a lot of the songs from “running on empty” because these are the ones that people seem to know most.
The album that I am running really late for is one that I have made of a Gospel choir, a young black choir from inner city, Los Angeles. We did some of my songs and some of their songs together. I am also planning to do a show with a flamenco pianist that I know from Seville called Pedro Ricardo and he showed up at a gig that I did, so you might soon be hearing some “flamenco gospel”.

Thank you very much.
Thank you, ‘hasta pronto’.

Eduardo Fdez-Martos Machado


Soy Eduardo Fdez-Martos Machado, director de La Torre de Montaigne.

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