On The Road with Richard Buckner



There are three kinds of American folk artist: those who sit, contented, on a back porch contemplating America’s landscape and ways; those for whom its landscape and ways are something to stand against or move boldly through; and those whose America is a shadowy, impressionistic place that moves inside of them. This [latter] is the area that the sombre-voiced Richard Buckner has been exploring since 1994.

—Sylvie Simmons, The Guardian, 2004

3 a.m analog: Do you remember your first tour?

Richard: The visual I have is of a dog choking itself as it tries to run on a taut leash, paws skidding in place, the dog looking straight ahead at something it can’t see, but dying to get there.

3 a.m. analog: How did you feel about being away from home?

Richard: Growing up, my family moved to different cities a few times a year. There never was a home area. This continued naturally when I began traveling for shows.

3 a.m. analog: Do you remember what surprised you?

Richard: I never expected much from touring, so nothing was surprising. It was just another instance of going to a foreign place and seeing how the other animals would react to an outsider.

3 a.m. analog: How has that changed?

Richard: Nothing has changed in 20+ years. Every night is a blind date.

3 a.m. analog: Has it become a way of life?

Richard: It never turns off. When I’m not touring, but leaving the house for other reasons, I still look out for motels near restaurants. I always keep a bag of clothes packed. I keep possessions like laptops, journals and cameras in one area so I can collect everything quickly and leave. There’s a survivalist system of organization and planning-as-you-go that shadows every action, even when there’s no reason to keep it up.

3 a.m. analog: Do you enjoy it more/less these days?

Richard: I enjoy traveling alone and seeing things. Unavoidable days off allow me to take more interesting routes. Shows are the work and the challenge. The travel and the visuals are the rewards.

3 a.m. analog: Do you tour with other musicians? If so, how would you describe that dynamic?

Richard: I don’t tour with other musicians. The few times I have have mostly been disasters ending with lost acquaintances and wasted money.

3 a.m. analog: What has being a life-long touring musician given you?

Richard: The gift is escape. At various day jobs between tours, I know that there’s at least a chance that I’ll find a way out from the gaze of some fruitbat-faced supervisor barking out irrelevant demands.

3 a.m. analog: Do you feel it has taken anything from you?

Richard: Touring hasn’t taken or given anything. I did all of that on my own.

3 a.m. analog: How has touring contributed to your growth as a performer?

Richard: Touring has contributed to my instincts about human nature. The performances have suffered from the realizations.

3 a.m. analog: Is there one funny thing that you remember in particular? One difficult thing?

Richard: Honestly, there isn’t much memory that can be trusted from myself or anyone else. I hear stories from time to time, from people I talk with at shows, that recall details that I don’t.

3 a.m. analog: Do you feel you have “home” cities all over the world? Do you have a favorite city? Have you fantasized about living there?

Richard: There aren’t any cities that I feel any closeness with. I’ve always fantasized, but life wrecks all illusions.

3 a.m. analog: Can you describe a day on a recent tour?

Richard: Every day is the same. Leave a motel. Get to another motel. Write until show-time. Perform. Write after the show. Wonder about the noises in the next room or parking lot. Struggle to sleep.

3 a.m. analog: Are you able to support yourself as a touring musician?

Richard: In my case, touring only supports the vice of being a musician, not the actual expenses of living day-to-day as a human who is also a musician. Anything earned goes back into the insatiable Ouroboros.

3 a.m. analog: What’s next for you?

Richard: Minor demolition.

Categories: First Issue

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