Josh Tillman is a man who’s not afraid to voice his opinion.
Last month, in the midst of Ryan Adam’s success of his 1989 Taylor Swift cover album, Tillman released a response cover of “Blank Space“. The cover was taken down shortly after, along with a bizarre Facebook post claiming that he did it after the ghost of Lou Reed told him to in a dream. That was later cleared up as a sort of hoax, — a test put out by Tillman to see how ridiculous of a story he could put out and still be circulated by the media.
His previous explanation is as follows: “I’ll say as basically as I can that I wanted to test the limits of how far you could get people to play along if this one person’s name was involved. Thats all that mattered. It had nothing to do with me, it had nothing to do with Ryan Adams. It just had to do with this person’s name being involved. And that was good for clicks,” he explained. “So I wanted to test, ‘If I put something out here that is associated with this thing that is just barely clinging to the fringes of what could be considered relevant will it get printed in wide circulation?’ And it did.”
Speaking to Billboard music, Tillman continued on that note, this time delving further into his thoughts on pop music, as both a genre and a culture.
I’m a person who upholds certain dualities that I think a lot of musicians now view as being quaint. I’m very suspicious of the mainstream, which is definitely the height of quaint. I think that the lines have blurred in superficial ways, I think certain dualities still exist and that there’s value in judging something as objectively as you can based on its sophistication or its beauty or its dignity.
There are certain pop stars that I think are poster children for cynicism. But it would be a hard sell since they, in such a superficial way, represent the mandate of the age, like being yourself and being different and being quirky. But being a certain type of different and being a certain type of quirky. There’s a huge difference between permissible transgression and impermissible transgression. Permission transgression is to be different and to be yourself and whatever, and then impermissible transgression is to not like that person or that person’s music or what that person represents. And if you dare do that then that person’s fans will turn on you and they will destroy you…I just think that pop music is a touchstone for so much of what’s going on in the collective psyche right now. That’s what that song “The Memo” that I put [in September] is about: The ways in which we chose to entertain ourselves say a lot about who we are.
This is like the most pretentious way of framing it, the only role I can really live with is to be an outsider. I don’t aspire to crossing over. It’s very important to me that I maintain my ability to say certain things. You don’t move into that other realm without making concessions — that’s the price of admission for moving into wider exposure. I don’t think I really have to worry about it too much because the things that I’m interested in talking about and the ways in which I’m interesting in addressing those things will always prevent me from doing that…In my mind it’s just important for me to maintain these dualities and to stay on one side — and to stay on the side where I belong.
Billboard exposed a little spark of great news as well in the article, as Tillman hinted that a new record could a lot closer than you’d expect to be. “Tillman, who has enough material for a new album ready to record (but won’t confirm specifically when he plans to do so), wants to exist on the fringes, even if his songs translate to a larger audience,” so stay tuned to (hopefully) hear some more good news on this announcement.
Image courtesy Side Stage Media via Flickr