Process, Preparation, and the Catholic Rigor of Art

Process, Preparation, and the Catholic Rigor of Art August 22, 2014

In anticipation of the release of my new album, Late to Love, here is a very interesting conversation about art between two Catholics, Conan O’Brien and Jack White.


I would never presume to say that Catholics have some special ability to make art, but I will claim that Catholic art has something to it that is distinctly and darkly beautiful. I am one of the least rock-and-roll guitarists out there, but I’ve recently become very interested in Jack White’s work.

I must admit that I did not know that Jack White was raised in a deeply Catholic home until I watched this conversation. But I suspected it strongly when I watched his over-two-hours-long set at Bonnaroo, where he played a song during the encore based on the life of St. Francis. It is a thrashing, rowdy, raunchy tune. For perhaps the first time, I felt like I could appreciate that sort of musical number.


I’ve come close to finishing all of the interviews at the Paris Review. In my own process of working at teaching, writing, and music, these interviews have been a life-source. Since I don’t care for what I’ve heard of his personality, I left Hemingway to the end. He doesn’t disappoint, in any sense. He comes off as a perfect asshole and logs some serious bits of wisdom, like this:

A writer, if he is any good, does not describe. He invents or makes out of knowledge personal and impersonal and sometimes he seems to have unexplained knowledge which could come from forgotten racial or family experience. Who teaches the homing pigeon to fly as he does; where does a fighting bull get his bravery, or a hunting dog his nose?


Speaking of interviews, my next interview will be with Leah Libresco. Speaking of art, Elizabeth Duffy is writing about art today, including some generous words about Late to Love.


Orientations begin next week, alongside my album release (which includes a free concert at Regent College). Teaching begins the following week. Deadlines are churning, and my family settles into our new life here.

As the news cycles seduce, compel, and discipline us into attention, there is something meatier and more immediate about this work I am blessed to do here and now—and I thank all of you who help me do it.

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