I knew about Nick Cave, however I was not a member of The Red Hand Files. (that’s where Cave answers all kinds of questions). I was looking forward to a very interesting show and I got a lot more than I expected.
The stage, bathed in blue light, was very intimate with eight cocktail tables filled with some very lucky fans sitting just behind a grand piano. The crowd was murmuring with excitement and there was almost a nervous tension in the room waiting for Cave to slink onto the stage.
Cave played a few songs and then he took some questions from fans. Cave has a beautifully soulful voice, so clean in its register, and he really had a fun and funny way with the crowd. You could tell that he was in his element.
He playfully picked on an audience member called Jeffrey, saying, “Get your shit together.” He’s been responding to his fan mail and getting an insight into who they are. The evening’s conversations were real. Fans asked questions of their favorite entertainer.
During the back-and-forth, he talked about how there is a real danger of erasing of songs from history because of PC culture. “Stagger Lee” is one of those songs for him. I think many artists are feeling this way now about all genres of art.
A fan asked if he could propose to his girlfriend on stage. He said that he didn’t want it to go horribly wrong. Of course, it went as expected, the proposal went clumsily, and everyone laughed. It was so funny. The would-be groom dropped the ring on the stage.
He talked about loving Jimmy Webb, an American pop country artist, after someone asked him about Webb. Cave then played a Webb song. He said that he was afraid of murdering the song “Where’s the Playground Susie”. It went flawlessly.
When asked about what makes him worry, Cave said climate change and war, but he said that they don’t keep him up at night
Cave said his songwriting is influenced by The Bible (he was raised a Christian). I was a little surprised by that. I’m not sure why, but I was. He explained how he likes the New Testament more than the old. He called both Testaments compelling. Nick related his love of The Bible and its stories like a longing and the yearning to reach for Jesus’s garment.
One thing that he made plain was the dislike of what he called the “certainty” of religious people. He doesn’t have much respect for organized religion. The existence of God isn’t what motivates him, but the yearning is more important to him. Cave thinks there are more truths in the world than just one. His example was science: “Atheism is crap for songwriting.”
He was asked about how he could move forward after his son died. The letters from his fans kept him going, commenting that we are all part of a river of sorrow and grief. The collective community and the song “Skeleton Tree” helped. He is now in touch with his intuitions. He attributes that to loss and grief. One piece of advice that seemed especially meaningful to Nick was to take his son out of his heart and place him next to him in his life. He explained how this approach is better for him emotionally. He talked about how you never get over grief, but you can be happier than before the trauma. He said there is a glorious life after you go through grief.
Cave said that his songwriting has changed over the years. He expressed how he hid himself in the characters of his songs. His songs became fractured and full of holes, and he filled the holes with imagination. His example was “Jubilee Street.” Cave explained that you must be empty and fill yourself with things and thoughts. “Abandon bad thoughts to keep the creativity going. Keep failing while striving for better.”
A fan asked how Nick Cave became comfortable with the sound of your own voice? He said it took a long time and he grew into it. He was told that he was a crooner when he was a punk. He said, “Bullshit, and now I’m a crooner.”
Asked about his marriage, he responded by saying that he goes on tour a lot. “Love is wonderful, and marriage is a parallel to love. . . You work towards the higher ideal. Things go wrong and you put them together again and there’s a beauty to that.”
He was asked about his feelings on fascism and President Trump. Cave responded that “We are far from fascism. Don’t forget how great we have it. So many people are really oppressed.” He said, “Don’t let politics get you down. Work hard and look forward.” He also added, “We need to move toward the light and away from bitterness and self-hatred.” He said there is too much beauty in the world to be wasted on hate.
A final fan asked about the sadness in his songs. Cave explained that when he performs, he’s not sad or in a sad state of mind. He lets the songs speak for themselves.
I think that sentiment is something we can all learn from. Nick Cave is having a very interesting life. His journey has been filled with the highest highs and the lowest lows. It all seems to have come out on the right side of life for Cave.