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Published:April 22nd, 2011 10:38 EST
The Spotlight Shines on Pure Intelligence!  An Interview with the Sublime, Bingham Willoughby

The Spotlight Shines on Pure Intelligence! An Interview with the Sublime, Bingham Willoughby

By Tom Ski

Little did I know, when we first introduced readers, fans, and soon-to-be fans to the amazing talent of writer/performer, Bingham Willoughby, that we hadn`t even "scratched` the surface of this multi-talented individual. 

Bingham outdoors

Bingham Willoughby`s first album titled, Maybe Not Today, Maybe Tomorrow, went beyond a performer`s usual creation.  Bingham had not only constructed every lyric, but the journey that he took as an individual to put those lyrics to music and offer them as a gift to the world, was truly magnificent.  A choir, perhaps, would be a much better lead-in to this interview with Bingham Willoughby but, alas, even in the electronic world an all-out heavenly  "drumroll` is a bit of a stretch.  Let`s just say that through this writer`s eyes, Bingham Willoughby is a man who has appeared on the scene because Fate knew the world needed someone of his talent to raise the caliber of music.

Bingham on the go

This is not an overstatement.  Bingham Willoughby has a unique power to  speak` to the fan like an old friend, a confidant, and, perhaps, even a headmaster or soothsayer - depending on the issue you wish to discuss.  Today, luckily enough, Bingham Willoughby has granted me the opportunity to provide the answers that fans want to know.

In this two-part series, Bingham Willoughby sits down and discusses his thoughts, feelings, and the roots of his incredible imagination and creativity.  You`ll have to hear the choir in your own minds, as I give to you a true master of his craft. 

Enter Bingham Willoughby.

Can you tell us a little bit about your family and growing up in Canada? 

A lot of people think of Canada as being quaint and rural, and it is in a lot of places.  I grew up in Toronto, in an inner city neighborhood.  I think I pretty much did what other people did:  I`d run around with the other kids from the street, and we tended to play more street hockey than baseball " so I guess that`s different from the American experience.

I`d love to have some revelatory story to share, but I think I had a pretty normal childhood. I don`t have that classic Canadian background that had my psyche being formed by vast expanses and snow covered vistas.  We`d be taking the subway to school, and doing city things.  When we got a bit older we`d be hitting the downtown strip.  I remember it feeling rather exciting. 

I was that kid who liked to draw " I was an arts  type, I suppose.  So we`d be checking out foreign films and seeking out those kinds of pursuits, like going out for coffee and dim sum " it was a good town for that.  All the best bands would come through so I got to attend some amazing performances; that`s great for young players, and a lot of fun!  I was the youngest of three boys - several years younger - so my brothers turned me on to music that other kids my age weren`t exposed to.  My parents were fans of folk music like Pete Seeger, and Bruce Cockburn, so I was really jammed between different parts of the musical spectrum.  I guess it finally manifested itself now, because I love Rockabilly and music from the fifties.  It`s hard to figure.

What age did the music bug` hit while growing up, and what brought that on?

I can`t pinpoint the exact moment of no return. I`ve always loved music; I`d sit and play singles on a little record player I had.  They were my brothers singles, so I`m sure it annoyed them to have some little kid messing with their stuff.  It might have started then. When I first started guitar I was super fascinated, so maybe that`s when the condition became chronic!  I was eleven. I don`t think I had any grand schemes yet.

I know you had your foray into rock music for a time.  Did you play with other bands?  Or, write songs in the rock-n-roll genre?

I`ve played in a lot of bands. That`s what you inevitably do. There`s a social element to playing music, and if you play some guitar, you usually run into other people that play.  It may be a little sitcom- ish,` but eventually someone says, let`s start a band.   

I`ve played the blues, heavy rock - even some electronic/techno stuff - as the guitarist in the situation.  I`ve definitely experimented with different styles of writing, and even scored a few short films.  I suppose those experiences led me to where I am now.  Maybe by process of elimination, I don`t think things really came together for me until I sat down to really try and write for myself.  Even though I`m really dedicated to the acoustic at the moment, I`ve been known to plug in` and rock out a bit.  I used electrics on the album a little bit; I`m not a purist by any means.  Once something really captures your ear, you can`t help but want to explore it, and that`s what the acoustic did for me.  The sound just opened up ideas for me to explore.

You are a one-man show,  so to speak.  What are the high-points of your music?  Such as, the mental creativity and then putting pen to paper for the lyrics, as opposed to the playing and performing of the songs - what is the favorite part of your creation?

There are a lot of high points.  I`m not sure they erase the lows entirely, but they`re more memorable.  Getting a great lyrical idea is really something "they seem to just materialize at times.  You`re left wondering where that came from.  Once I was moving a bunch of boxes around and a lyric I`d been stuck on for a few months just popped into my head - I didn`t even need to write it down - all of a sudden it just existed.  Not every one is a bolt from the blue, but it happens.  It`s the same for the music - things have their own way of presenting themselves.  You have to be in the correct mood to be receptive; honestly, it can seem very difficult or the easiest thing in the world.  The problem is you can`t predict how any of this stuff will arrive.  That`s the high and low part.  When performing, it has its own character too.  It`s a really confounding blend of nervous energy, confusion, and concentration all at once.  You attempt to stay calm, of course.  Getting up there is both very fun and a little frightening too.  When it`s just you and the guitar, you`re extremely in the moment.  I`m shifting in my chair a bit even talking about it.  I feel like grabbing my guitar!

I have to say that listening to your music is much like sitting across a coffee table and having a conversation with you face-to-face.  Do you feel, as some other music lovers do, that music has turned more into the "bright lights` and "magazine cover-style` than actual talent?  (This is not meant to be a slam against the music industry, by the way, just a fan like others who are sick of the Britney, Lady Ga Ga, shtick).

I like to believe my songs are of a more intimate character and lend themselves to a more conversational feeling of interaction, but that`s not my decision to make.  That depends, once again, on the listener.  In terms of the whole bright lights  scenario you speak of, some of those types of performers possess amazing talent.  I don`t necessarily stack one against the other.  They`re practically different styles of entertainment.  A rock band isn`t the ballet, and certainly the listener gets to choose what they like - now, strangely, more than ever.

I try to keep an open mind, a good song is a good song, ultimately.  It`s possible to feel alienated from any type of music; it`s human nature to want to pick and pit things against each other.  I`m sure at one point people had broken into camps over the harpsichord versus the piano forte!  Bizarre "show biz` instincts are a talent unto themselves, and it all speaks to this weird current obsession with celebrity.

There has always been a mythic part to music`s narrative.  So you get to pick your flavor, and your myth now.  I don`t worry about it.  I can assure you, at this point, Lady Gaga isn`t losing a lot of sleep related to what I`m up to.  I`m an independent artist trying to do what I do to the best of my abilities.  I`m just glad there`s still enough room for people to have a shot at enjoying what I`m doing.  I`ve been performing my songs with me and the acoustic guitar.  I saw a clip recently of Lady Gaga driving out in some kind of egg contraption, flanked by a herd of dancers!  But, look, she plays, she writes - like it or not, she and I have a kinship.  Of course, we`re distant cousins from different planets apparently, but people get a big kick out of her.  And when I see people enjoying music, that`s a positive.  I`m pro` music always.  It might be advisable to balance your Britney time with an equal or greater amount of Bing time, though " just a suggestion!  See?  Even broaching these show biz issues can get someone referring to themselves in the third person!

Where do your most creative moments hit?  Such as, a walk in the wilderness, inside a movie theater or, simply observing the world going on around you?

I`m pretty practiced at being preoccupied regarding these matters.  I just try to be in a state to receive the ideas at any time.  That`s what is interesting "there`s no one situation for me, the quiet of the woods could be the catalyst, but a busy street can be, too. That`s why I place so much importance on the listener`s interpretation.  Where the song begins might be so radically different from where the song ends up " you might say the seed doesn`t always match the plant.  It`s what the finished work conveys.  Some of the more complex ideas I`m trying to communicate, sprang from very humble sources.  Art can transform and translate our everyday experiences.  I`m trying to collect up and assemble the fragments.

Readers, it is no surprise that I titled this article by inserting the adjective of Intelligence, which you can see was a perfect fit simply by reading Bingham Willoughby`s prolific and fascinating answers. 

And, as if dangling a sirloin in front of a hungry dog J, I will be saving the rest of the interview to appear in two weeks time.  Bingham Willoughby has much more to say - and he says it all extremely well.  Not only that, but you will get to read what Bingham Willoughby would like to hear when approaching the Pearly Gates.  And, at least then, he will be provided with a choir loud and clear to announce his arrival.

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Until Next Time