I had been writing and performing music semi-professionally for over a decade before I decided to try to make this my full-time job. I’ve done a lot of different things – copywriting for an ad agency, hosting TV shows, stand-up comedy, translations, directing and much, much more, but music was always a part-time thing for me.

Until a couple of years ago, when I spent two months in a tiny village in the west of Iceland called Hólmavík. This is truly the most beautiful and peaceful place on earth, and the locals are among the most wonderful people I’ve ever met. I was hired to direct the local amateur theater company in a production of Sweeney Todd. I spent two months in the local hotel, in the middle of winter, and when I wasn’t busy with rehearsals or doing some translation work for a TV station I sometimes freelance for, I was working on my music. It’s really amazing what a change of scenery and a change of pace will do for you, artistically.

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I can tell you, vividly, about the last time I cried. It was one of those moments I’ll be able to recollect on my death bed. It was when I found out that Leonard Cohen had died. You may be thinking that’s a weird thing to break down in tears over – he was an old man, after all, and it’s not like I knew him personally. But the thing is, he knew me. At least it always felt that way. And as I sat there, early one morning, trying not to think about the politics of late 2016, and I saw that Cohen had left us, I just started to bawl like a baby. And I’d like to tell you about the reasons for that, and the reason why it really matters to me that you’re here.

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I’m a great believer in minimalism. I don’t think there’s any point in forcing yourself to cram things into your songs that aren’t absolutely required. In fact, I routinely slash things out of my songs in order to make them simpler. But I wasn’t always like that.

A lot of songwriters (and I used to be one of them) are afraid to write really simple songs. I think it is in part a desire to be original and clever (“Wow, that’s a lot of chords in one song!”), and in part fear of being exposed. You see, a really complex soup of notes and chords is a really good hiding place. Whereas if you go out there just strumming G and C, it’s all you and the passion and emotion you’ve put in the song. It took me years to muster up the courage to accept that my songs wanted to be really simple.

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