Music interview: Jackson Browne

Jackson Browne.
Jackson Browne.
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One of the most unique and compelling songwriters in pop music history is gracing the UK next week for a brief tour.

Jackson Browne has been writing and recording politically-charged anthems and sombre, introspective songs of love - lost and found - since his highly-acclaimed début album, Jackson Browne, in 1972.

As well as providing hit songs for the Eagles, Browne’s confessional ballads, such as These Days and Fountain of Sorrow, have earned him a prestigious place in music history, alongside his West Coast singer/songwriter contemporaries like Joni Mitchell and Neil Young.

In 2004, after three decades of releasing classic albums like Late for the Sky and The Pretender, both of which were listed in Rolling Stone’s ‘500 Greatest Albums of All Time’, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Bruce Springsteen.

This year saw the release of his 14th studio album, Standing in the Breach. Some of the songs on this LP were written as recently as last year, whereas some were written as early as 1966. “A couple of them are quite old.”, explains Browne, 66, in his laid-back Californian accent. “The first song, The Birds of St Mark’s, is a song that I wrote when I was about 18. I never considered it finished, I suppose. Also, I never could hear it the way I wanted to hear it. I just sort of forgot about it for a long time. It got put on a Solo Acoustic live album – somebody called for it and I sang it. I had never made a studio recording of it.”

Jackson’s first four records are often revered as some of the best albums of the 1970s. However, as his career progressed into the 1980s, he moved away from the soft-rock that made him a star, and gravitated more towards the political rock arena. Still, he says there is always room in his set for the old favourites, which he still enjoys playing. “Maybe I sing them better, or maybe it’s just that time has compounded their meaning with some additional meaning. I like how these songs resonate with each other, playing them live.”

Aside from his music, Browne is also a huge political activist, and is known for supporting several environmental causes, including boycotting plastic bottles. “I carry a water filter, and I use a metal, reusable bottle. I carry the filter in my suitcase, and when I get to the hotel I fill it up, and I’m staring at these bottles that are five dollars each that the hotel has provided. It’s worth making the effort.

“There’s a certain amount of solace, that you get from making the effort; being willing to take a few extra steps to do something that’s a little bit better for the environment.”

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