“I write songs as they come to me. I don’t set out to make statements,” Willie Nile tells Billboard. But the veteran New York rock singer-songwriter found he had plenty to say on his new Children Of Paradise, whose provocative track “Earth Blues” is premiering below.
“In this particular case there’s so much going on in the world. It’s important stuff and the songs just came out,” Nile says about Children Of Paradise‘s 12-track blend of anthemic urban rock and Guthrie-esque folk and Americana. “I think whether it’s the climate or politics or human suffering, these are days of a lot of pain and suffering. It’s visible on TV 24 hours a day. So the songs just came to me as they did.” But Nile doesn’t intend Children Of Paradise to be all foreboding social commentary.
“For me it’s a way of fighting back against the negativity,” he explains. “Music can be healing and redemptive. In so many ways these are such dark days on the planet — they needn’t be, but they certainly are. The album’s heartfelt for sure. It’s pissed off at times. It’s in love at times but it’s on fire, and at the end of the day I wanted the music to be inspiring. I wanted it to pick me up, and pick whoever is listening up. That’s the thing I like most about rock ‘n’ roll — it’s got power and promise. It can make you feel better.”
“Earth Blues” outlines some of the challenges in that equation. Nile says he “wanted to give the earth a voice with all that’s happening to it. If the planet had feelings, what would it be saying? There’s a mass of plastic garbage the size of Texas floating in the Pacific Ocean, for cryin’ out loud! A hundred years from now the people responsible for letting it fall into ruin will be long gone and our descendants will be left to deal with the difficulties to come. Our grandchildren and great grandchildren are going to have to pay for it. It’s not right and it’s not ok. That’s why I wrote it. It also rocks and is good fun to play live.”
Another track, “Getting Ugly Out There,” is Nile’s “reaction to the ugliness that’s on TV 24 hours a day. It’s so disheartening. We’re better than this. Given the nasty politics and the totally unnecessary divisions in the world today with all the human suffering going on and the tidal wave of misinformation sweeping across the land it’s hard for people to know who or what to believe anymore, and I felt I just had to write about it.”
Nile has already started performing songs from Children Of Paradise — which comes out July 27 and whose title track originally appeared on his 1991 album Places I Have Never Been. He has dates booked into July, including his Rock ‘N’ Roll Birthday Bash on June 9 in Asbury Park, N.J. He promises that rather than political rallies the tone of the shows will remain populist and encourage fans to, as the new song says, “don’t let the f***ers kill your buzz.”
“I refuse to let these people — the politicians, the talking heads, the commentators — kill my buzz,” Nile says. “Life is too precious and too short to let those things get you down. I’ll fight that to my last breath. I really will. And I think people are good. Whatever political party anyone’s in — left, right, in-between, upside down — there are good people everywhere. It’s just hard to make clear decisions when there’s so much disagreement about what’s going on. If everybody knew clearly what’s going on then we could have some productive discussions and not just yell at each other like we’re doing now. I’m gonna do my part to fight and stay strong and try to bring people together, not drive them apart.”
Sat., June 2 MAMARONECK, NY The Emelin Theatre
Sun., June 3 NEW YORKCITY Bowery Electric Listening Party / Performance
Sat., June 9 ASBURY PARK, NJ House of Independents (Willie Nile’s Rock ’N’ Roll Birthday Bash!)
Fri., June 15 NEW HAVEN, CT Cafe Nine
Sat., June 16 CROTON POINT PARK, NY Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival
Sat., June 30 SANTA MONICA, CA McCabe’s
Sun., July 1 AGOURA HILLS , CA Peter Strauss Ranch
Fri.-Sun., July 6-8 ATLIN, BC, Canada Atlin Arts & Music Festival
Sun., July 29 FRANCAVILLA AL MARE, Italy Blubar Festival