Magnetic Fields Frontman Stephin Merritt on Lil Nas X, Long COVID, and the Legacy of ’69 Love Songs

“Papa Was a Rodeo” is considered one of the most beautiful songs on the record. I wouldn’t use the word “favorite”, but do you hold it in equally high regard?

First review I never read 69 love songs specified that not all 69 songs were worth listening to, for example, “There’s terrible country claptrap, like ‘Papa Was a Rodeo’.” In this reviewer’s mindset, all country music is terrible, and so the fact that I had the courage to put something of such a terrible genre on record reflected my contempt for the audience.

As soon as I think about this, knives start coming out of my eyes.

That is why it is popular in the country.

Especially now that Beyoncé is working in the country.

And Lil Nas X.

The last track I wanted to ask you about was “100,000 Fireflies”, which is not on. 69 love songs, I read in an interview published after his death that the singer Suzanne Anway said that you told her, “Don’t sing like you know how,” which I thought was suggestive. Did you use that approach for your side project The 6ths, in which you write for other singers? What appeals to you about letting the lyrics shine through over the emotions?

Well, I think when people are in a situation like The 6ths, they can be overly concerned about pleasing the producer. Maybe they want to show what they can do. I wanted to make sure that they weren’t showing off what they could do, but that they were singing as if this song was their everyday life. The songs on The 6ths Records are describing the characters. They are not describing cataclysmic events in most of the characters’ lives; They are simply describing their everyday lives.

In the song “Dream Hat”, the character lives in a trailer park, but has found a magical hat. We don’t know whether it’s a metaphor or not. Generally, things aren’t metaphors unless you’re told they are, but you can always assume they’ll mean something as if they were metaphors in the end. I tried to keep “Dream Hat” literal, but I don’t know.

Mac McCaughan, who sang “Dream Hat”, is like nobody’s business, and I wanted him to sing it straight. So I famously asked him to sing it as if he was bored, and I got good results with it. “Sing it like you’re bored” is actually a synonym for “let the song take care of the emotions.”

It definitely works for me. I’m very excited about the 25th anniversary tour. What are your hopes for the 50th anniversary of 69 Love Songs?

I will become President at that time. I’ll be 80, old enough to be president, and I won’t have time to go on tour, but the technology will have changed and I can send my avatar on tour because that technology has already changed. ABBA has sent its incarnations on tour. So we’ll be able to send our avatars on tour across the galaxy to all the different geo-sized worlds that we’ve set up around Alpha Centauri.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

traveling magnetic fields Tea with a special two-night performance of 69 love songs from late March to November in the US, UK and Europe.

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