Event Archives

Will Oldham a.k.a. Bonnie “Prince” Billy | Lecture Two: Recording & Performing Songs

For twenty-five years, Will Oldham has written rangy rock tunes, hushed folk confessionals, charming country waltzes, and stormy piano ballads, making use of specific guises to suit each tune. He’s an expert at making tough choices while recording, paring down layers or building them up until the recording reflects the writing. “Recording is all about identifying and constructing a sonic reality that is seductive, sometimes perversely so,” he says. “If you can get a listener comfortable with embedding a song into his existence, its strengths and intentions creep out over months and years.” At Sound Pure, Oldham walks listeners through his recording process, playing selections from his catalog.

During the last quarter-century, few American singer-songwriters have inspired as much awe or intrigue as Will Oldham, best known as Bonnie “Prince” Billy. In the mid-nineties, Oldham emerged from Kentucky’s thriving indie rock subculture with a voice and sensibility that seemed as old and as distinctive as the state’s knobby mountains and deep caverns. On songs that documented and questioned the story of human existence, Oldham’s country tenor wavered through an admixture of hurt and hope, cracking beneath the strain of experience. By lacing the folk storytelling of his native state with the more abstract inclinations of his modern peers, Oldham has happily crept along the border between the accessible and abstruse, like a traditional balladeer with a philosophy degree and a love of dark humor. As prolific as he is profound, Oldham has covered Merle Haggard, been covered by Johnny Cash, and collaborated with Eighth Blackbird on a song cycle that mesmerized a Duke Performances audience in 2017. He is one of the most engaged, engaging singers and songwriters of his generation.

In Durham, the typically enigmatic Oldham steps into the spotlight as he never has. During a three-day residency, he dissects his approach to songwriting, explores the ideas and techniques behind his recordings, and concludes with a full-length concert in the acoustically brilliant Baldwin Auditorium.

  • $25
  • $10Duke Students
  • Thu, Sep 27, 2018 at 7:00pm
Sound Pure