Cass McCombs

Cass McCombs

Experts from the July 2014 Washington Post article titled "Songwriters At The End of The World"

McCombs says he grew up singing in Northern California churches, but he’s happy to keep that story vague and brief. (“I was raised around many diverse systems of consciousness but the prevailing one was atheism,” he clarifies later in an e-mail. “Also: biography has nothing to do with craft.”)

Roughly 10 years ago, McCombs lived here in Baltimore, but he won’t talk much about that either. He’s spent the past decade wandering the country, packing the cosmos into brutally efficient folk songs, refusing to claim a permanent address. “It’s more of an avoidance of materialism.”

He also calls the idea of writing lyrics on paper “ridiculous,” hesitating before describing his approach to lyricism. “I’m not going to give up all my secrets,” he says, “but in a heightened state of emotion, maybe a car crash, no matter who you are, even if you’re the coolest m—–f—– in the world, you’re reacting to fire and noise. What you’re gonna say is going to be very specific. You’re not gonna monkey around. You’re going to use your language to try to help people, or warn people. I think making lyrics is like that. You only need to say what’s essential for you to say.”

McCombs’s gift is his ability to smuggle all of that urgency and violence into such handsome, even-keeled balladry.

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