Can you perceive any evolution in your songwriting over the course of your career?
It would be very hard to be objective about, but I’m aware that my music has changed over the years. Certain new things have been added. It’s always mysterious. If I take pleasure and, say, pride in a song from the past often it is I can’t really remember how it came. And I don’t really know that I couldn’t do it again. You do sometimes battle with the idea that, on a day when you can’t write, you go, “Well maybe my best work is behind me.” And then you have a real breakthrough one day and go, “I think this one could be the best thing I’ve ever done.” So it’s a continual process of picking yourself up from feeling worthless and then stopping yourself from getting too big a head.
Is songwriting something you enjoy?
That’s a tough question because like anything that’s worthwhile there’s always going to be struggle. But I’m compelled by it. I love it, and I find it totally fascinating. You might as well just ask somebody who’s in a long-term relationship whether they enjoy being in a long-term relationship. There are so many aspects to it that are not necessarily straightforward or always harmonious. Songwriting can be the most desperate feeling on earth if you’re not getting anything done. But the moment of breakthrough, you have a little revelation… And inspiration only comes to those that work anyway, I think. If you just sit around and wait for all the good bits to happen; I think it’d be a rare person that’s got that much a gift.
Do you find that songs you’ve written resonate in different ways with you over time when you perform them?
Oh, absolutely. In the right circumstances — an intimate setting perhaps — some of the more obscure songs that never really had a lot of attention at the time rise to the top of the show. There’s a song from the first Finn record, which is quite an obscure record actually, called “Only Talking Sense,” which we never got to play much but I’ve been playing it quite a bit lately solo. For some reason it just seems to have a tremendous power and seems to really get people excited, whether or not they know it.
A lot of your best work doesn’t necessarily get noticed at the time. There are circumstances that create… Maybe the stars line up, people take notice. They’re all paying attention. Certain songs rise in those times, and they become your hits. But I think in a parallel universe there are a whole lot of other songs that you write that are potentially equal songs, but don’t come at a time when people are paying attention. But they resonate over a long period of time, and I think they sometimes have their day a lot longer. It’s a good thing to remember and put some faith in.