not a member? click here to sign up
The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Writer
He is the singer and songwriter with one of America’s most highly rated cult bands. He is also one of the most acclaimed US novelists to have emerged in recent times. But it would be hard to find anyone less driven by ego or a desire for celebrity than Willy Vlautin, frontman with Richmond Fontaine. In fact what he hankers after is the opportunity to slip off into the woods alone – and write.
Olaf Tyaransen, 17 Oct 2011
“I’ve always liked Deborah Kelley’s voice. I would pay her money to read to me. She’s just got a voice I believe in. She’s got a voice like a real woman. She’s always been my favourite singer. We toured together a few times, starting around 2003, so we’ve known each other a while.”
Speaking of touring, Richmond Fontaine are not an especially hard gigging band. “At the most, we tour two or three months a year when we’re promoting something, spread out,” he says. “I’ve never been into touring that much. That’s probably one of the reasons the band is still together. None of the guys like touring. We’ve always been on the same page, remarkably, about that. I don’t think anyone likes getting on the road.”
Another reason the band have stayed together is undoubtedly the democratic divvy-up of the profits. Although Vlautin writes the songs, all royalties are split evenly. “I write the songs, but my confidence level is such that I couldn’t do it without a band,” he explains. “Those guys are pals of mine so I’m not the leader of the band. I just write the songs. Sean Oldham’s probably the leader of the band. I like the privilege of writing the songs for the guys, and it’s an honour that they let me do it, but it’s a band.
“They just let me write the songs, which is fuckin’ great – for me. And I’m the one that would do it because I like writing ‘em more than the other guys do. So that’s probably why we’ve been together so long. We’re all equal, everybody cuts the same way in the band. Every man’s the same. Because the last thing I’d wanna do is get in a band with a bunch of guys and get paid more than they do. I’d rather do something else for a living.”
As it happens, Willy Vlautin does do something else for a living. He is the author of three novels, the most recent of which, Lean On Pete, won the Ken Kesey Award (and was also the Hot Press critics’ choice for ‘Best Novel of 2010’).
His 2006 debut The Motel Life – a gut wrencher about a pair of working-class brothers who flee their seedy Reno motel after being involved in a fatal car accident – has just been adapted into a movie by the Polsky Brothers (Bad Lieutenant), starring Dakota Fanning, Stephen Dorff, Emile Hirsch and Kris Kristofferson.