Bill Callahan’s Three Night Residency at The Chapel
Tonight’s the last chance for you to close the year with an amazing, beautiful show by Bill Callahan (Smog) at The Chapel. We chatted with him via email about his new album “Gold Record”, the three-night residency shows, the pandemic, touring, and San Francisco, check it out.
Patricia Colli: You released a new album “Gold Record” last year during the pandemic, how was your creative process through that time?
Bill Callahan: Gold was recorded pre-pandemic but released during it. It felt stunted, incomplete to not play a single show for it. Except for a few radio session-type things. I would say Gold Record was my home-schooled record. Meaning you had to take it on yourself to learn about it as a listener. I could not come around and teach it to people in person.
Do you have a creative ritual?
I don’t have a creative ritual. I’m just kind of always working on something. Having a family, I take weekends off.
Was staying home for such a long time a good thing for writing and releasing new songs?
Pandemic was a reflective time for sure. Not touring freed up a lot of time and energy. Made me re-think the whole approach.
I love that the album was recorded in one week and most songs on the album were recorded on the first take, others on the second take, it seems very unusual and cool. Has this happened in any of your other albums?
Most of my albums happened this way. Only Shepherd was belabored.
How did the idea of a residency at The Chapel come along?
It was offered by Britt Govea at Folk Yeah. My first post-lockdown show was at a farm in Portland. It made me realize the year was coming to a close and I hadn’t made any money. Solo residencies feel like a good way to ease back into things.
How do you choose the repertoire?
I kind of start from zero with all shows like this. I find a way to slightly re-invent my songs so that I can get excited about a new approach, a new trajectory to the set, a new perspective for me to take on the songs.
How do you feel about touring in these weird times we’re living among all new variants and restrictions?
“A lot of decisions people have made within this time don’t make sense to me. So I have to make sense of it on my own.”
– Bill Callahan
I’ve always been curious about your time living in San Francisco, when was that and long have you lived here for?
It was the early 90’s and I probably lived here for only a couple of years.
There’s a video on youtube that you mention writing Bathysphere when you lived on 16th St and Mission in a sunroom, the landlord didn’t know you lived there and when you came back from tour, it rained and your bed was soaking wet and moldy. Classic SF story.
What are your favorite memories and places in SF?
Bill Callahan: I got here last night and walked around. SF is a remarkably evocative and unchanging city. I’m sure if you live here it has changed a lot, but from my cursory grasp it feels just like when I lived here.
Dream-like streets. I walked up a big hill yesterday! We don’t have those in Austin.
Mostly I just liked to walk around and it’s the city that introduced me to coffee shops. Bringing a book and a notebook and sitting there for hours reading, writing, eavesdropping and writing down what I heard. Now it is commonplace and even douchey — it was probably douchey then too—.