An Hour of Wisdom and Storytelling with Joe Henry

An Hour of Wisdom and Storytelling with Joe Henry March 3, 2015

joe henry cropJoe Henry, who recorded my favorite record of 2014 (Invisible Hour), was the guest on the latest installment of the excellent podcast On Being, with Krista Tippett.

He shared a lot of wisdom about the art of songwriting and about the life of an artist. I was frequently moved and inspired, wishing I could reach for a pen (I was driving as I listened).

In a late stretch of the show, he spoke about how easy it is to feel small and invisible as an artist. He said, “I’m ashamed to think, in my early professional life, how much time I wasted and how much agony I allowed based on being treated poorly by an industry that … brags about how poorly they treat people. I mean, it’s just a fact.”

Tippett responded, “But still, you took it personally.”

And he said, “I took it personally. And I wasted a lot of time. I spent a lot of significant time hurt over all the ways in which I was not being acknowledged by the people with whom I was trying to be in business. And I look back now just think, ‘How did I not see through that?’

I’d venture to guess that most artists struggle with this. I confess that I sometimes do.

Hearing such sentiments from a master like Joe Henry… I found that encouraging.

He also said, “We’re sort of seduced into thinking that … here’s life and then there’s these bad things that can happen that are like obstacles, that just fall into your road. As if the obstacle is not the road, you know? We want to think that, all things being equal, we should be content all the time — and would be except for these pesky flies that want to ruin every picnic. As if that isn’t what the picnic is, you know?” [italics mine].

Then he noted, “… [If] you cut yourself off from great sorrow, you also cut yourself off from great joy.”

That’s the kind of thing that Joe Henry says in a casual conversation. That’s why I love listening to him talk about his work almost as much as I love listening to his work.

You can listen to the podcast here.


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