Interview: Conor Oberst talks Bright Eyesâ€™ future, New York state of mind
“I’m fortunate enough to move around a lot.”
That’s the truth in more ways than one for Conor Oberst, who’s lived in a number of cities, made records in even more of them, and bounced from project to project with the same liquidity.
These days, the Nebraska-born singer-songwriter has made New York his physical home (he’ll be celebrating it soon with a headlining stint at the Brooklyn Waterfront on Aug. 31, next week). Everything else is up in the air.
The big news this year was that his band Bright Eyes’ album “The People’s Key” may be its swan song. Speaking to me from the road, though, Oberst played down any order of finality.
“I don’t think it’s anything official,” he said over the phone, mentioning that the Bright Eyes configuration is partly endangered because he, Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott currently live in different cities. And while there will not be another Bright Eyes album any time soon, Oberst isn’t counting another one out in the distant future. “I hope there is,” he said.
So the band continues to tour through the end of the year, with U.S. shows ending in September and a few scheduled international shows. Like Bright Eyes’ stop-off at Lollapalooza earlier this month, the setlists show-to-show have boasted tracks from more than a half-dozen studio albums, and even more singles and EPs. It’s been like a roving greatest hits collection from the crew, with Oberst, 31, still spewing his f-bombs from songs like “Lover I Don’t Have to Love” with the same gusto as the self-philosophizing of recent “Jejune Stars.”
“This year has been really good for us. When I was solo, we were playing smaller rooms, and that was perfect for [the Mystic Valley Band project],” he says. “I didn’t play a lot of big festivals in 2010. This has been the year for that.”
So if Bright Eyes isn’t on the docket, what does that mean for new output? Oberst said he has no definite plans for any single project, even for a solo record. As previously indicated, his other group Monsters of Folk is in stasis, according to M. Ward. He hasn’t had any idea yet what songs he’ll be writing next, whether it’d country-influenced, dance-loving or rocking.
Oberst has “gotten out of the music business” in regards to his former label ventures, with Saddle Creek and Team Love. Were he to release an album next year, he’s not even positive what label it’d be on.
“Will there even be records in a couple years?” he asked. When it comes to digital channels and pay models like newly launched Spotify, “It’s still sort of the Wild West.”
Here are Bright Eyes' current tour dates.