Now He Knows

Built to Spill's Doug Martsch takes a solo side trip, after waking up with his mind on Jesus

"There are some guys around here in Boise who play with me sometimes, at the little studio I've got set up in the back of my house," Martsch says, "and what's on the record grew out of that, them just coming over and, like, jamming with what I'd written. They were totally shocked when I told them the record was actually going to come out."

Insofar as Now You Know did at last hit record shelves only after languishing for more than two years, it's not surprising to hear that his obsessions have moved on in the meantime; namely, to reggae.

"That's another example, right there, of what I was talking about--like, finding things when the time is right," he says, his words picking up speed with his excitement. "If you'd asked me 10 years ago what music I considered the most ridiculous possible, I would have said 'reggae,' without even having to think about it. Whereas, now I think it's, like, the most gorgeous music possible--and it's funny, because I can't even figure it out, how it works, how it manages to seem so amazingly simple and yet there is so much going on. The rhythms...the way you can't tell whether there are four people playing or 12, I mean, it's astonishing."

With a blues-inspired album in stores and a reggae disc in his head, Doug Martsch is apparently using Willie Nelson as a career counselor.
Karena Youtz
With a blues-inspired album in stores and a reggae disc in his head, Doug Martsch is apparently using Willie Nelson as a career counselor.

So, should fans be expecting some reggae-inspired songs in Martsch's set on his current solo acoustic tour?

"Well, yes and no--because I was trying to work some ideas I'd gotten from reggae into the last Built to Spill album, and I'm playing a lot of that stuff on this tour. Actually, most of my set is Built to Spill stuff," he continues. "I've found that a lot of the Now You Know songs don't work solo, because they did end up being multipart compositions. So I'm doing covers and Built to Spill songs. Which is kind of a weird way to promote the record, I guess, but then my whole career has been in some way about finding ways to stay obscure despite my record label's best intentions."

Martsch laughs. And concludes, somehow fittingly, that since Now You Know was the work of a whim now past its sell-by date, he's "kind of over it now."

"I'm lucky," he says. "I've got fans who'll come out and support me no matter what, pretty much. The great privilege of my life is that I get to indulge my tastes as they change."

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