During our phone interview, singer/songwriter and avid bird watcher Jonathan Meiburg asks to halt our conversation. "Hang on just a second," Meiburg says. "I'm looking at this bird and I can't tell what it is." After fumbling with his binoculars for a moment, Meiburg exclaims, "Oh, it's an osprey! That's what I thought it was."
Meiburg has been a birder for about a decade and his passion for the hobby gives some indication of how the artist's creative clock ticks. He knows all the specifics about his feathered friends, but he's more intrigued by the emotions they evoke in him. Similarly, Meiburg has an understanding of the intricacies involved in writing his breed of Southern space-rock, but he's more interested in crafting a feeling than a complicated melody. As he waits in eager anticipation of his band Shearwater's album Rook to be released in June, Meiburg is going on tour to perform Shearwater songs by his lonesome in support of friend Bill Callahan, more commonly known as Smog. Meiburg gave us some idea of what those 21-and-over can expect at the Launchpad Tuesday, March 4.
Shearwater's songs have all sorts of instruments—from guitar, bass and drums to string and wood instruments. How do they sound when it's just you with an electric guitar?
It's nice seeing the songs in their skeletal form. It's sort of like inviting people into your room to watch you make them. It's just a different way of listening to them, and my hope is that the songs have the same force and drive behind them that they do when the band plays them.
Is it more nerve-racking being on stage by yourself?
You feel a little more attuned to the audience than when the band is playing. If you're the point-person, you feel an energy focused on you. It can be fun, but it's also very intimidating because it's just you up there and nobody's gonna look anywhere else.
Your lyrics can be somewhat vague. How do you feel about people understanding what you're trying to convey?
What interests me about performing is not that people can learn about the literal meaning of my songs. I think art should be after something deeper than that. If you've seen me play and you don't know anything about me after that, that's kind of what I'm after. I guess I want to be more generous than letting people know about me. You want to give out a shared feeling. Instead of broadcasting, it's more like channeling.
Are you excited to be touring with Bill Callahan?
Absolutely. I've got nothing but good things to say about Bill. He's one of the best songwriters working right now. I saw him perform in Austin and he blew my mind. It wasn't just his songs, but his presence on stage and how he works with the band. If you had told me after I saw that concert that I would be sharing the stage with him on tour, it would have bowled me over.
Are you going to be performing with him?
Yeah. During his set, I'll be playing guitar alongside him and Shearwater drummer Thor Harris. I haven't been the guitarist in someone's band for a long time. It's kind of nice to get back to that.
How's the tour going?
It's going well. We're just getting fired up, so by the time we get to you guys in Albuquerque we should be smokin'.