Q&A: Jay Farrar on Kerouac, Big Sur


Son Volt frontman Jay Farrar has been reading Jack Kerouac since he was a teenager. But writing the music and lyrics for the soundtrack to One Fast Move or I'm Gone, a documentary about Kerouac's semi-autobiographical novel Big Sur, provided plenty of firsts for the songwriter, who collaborated on the project with Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard.SW: Considering you made a whole record inspired by Big Sur, I have prepared some questions inspired by the book. You mind if I record this?Farrar: If they're gonna be, uh, flippant, maybe it's not a good idea.Why did you think Big Sur was worth basing an entire album on?The overall influence of Jack Kerouac is pervasive. I saw ZZ Top a couple weeks ago, and Billy Gibbons was talking about how he was influenced by Jack Kerouac.Did you rediscover some things about the novel you hadn't noticed the first few times around?Yeah—incidentally, I had not read the book early on as a teenager. I think having the opportunity to read Big Sur for the first time at a similar age that Jack was when he was going through the experiences in the book definitely allowed [the novel] to resonate in a way that it would not have if I had read it as a 14-year-old.What kind of parallels did you draw between his experiences and your own life?Well, you know, Jack sort of laid out a template for others to follow, both in terms of his method of writing and his message—the message being go out and experience life and write about it. And that's pretty much what any musician out there is doing.Do you have any experiences similar to what Kerouac was trying to accomplish with Big Sur, like getting away from everything that you're used to?It might be antithetical to say this coming off the experience of working with the book Big Sur, but I've always felt like it would be a disaster for me to go off on a mountain somewhere completely alone to create. And I guess in some ways Jack realized he needed companionship. I've always sort of needed to be in the city in order to create, you know, with perhaps a woodshedding situation in the city.ckornelis@seattleweekly.com

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