TR: So the same schism that permeates our community now between urban and rural — I mean, why is “country” an epithet? — was present even down South when you were growing up? Those biases are sturdy.
CW: Yes, definitely. I got a lot of that when I did Blue Light ‘Til Dawn. There was a great resistance. People said I was turning away from something more sophisticated for something less.
TR: I liked your Facebook post on Super Bowl Sunday about the New Orleans Saints and what their win meant for their fans and the city. Are you still living in New Orleans?
CW: I live everywhere, or at least it feels that way. We have the place in New Orleans, Jackson [Miss.], Woodstock [N.Y.], and we just got the apartment back in New York City. I haven’t spent more than two weeks in one place in a long time. It’s hard to find your center when you live like that; you have to have a different anchor. But I feel a connection to each place.
TR: Do you spend much time on the Internet?
CW: I use as many social networking vehicles as possible to connect with people. It’s important, though sometimes you have to tell people to step off. I had to do that with someone when the discussion of the Park51 project turned heated. It’s good to do sometimes, clear your space.
TR: What are you listening to these days?
CW: Abbey [Lincoln], some Billie [Holiday], too. There are some singers that I’m constantly learning from. I’m always finding new elements that draw me to their music. Right now it seems that I’m listening to their phrasing a lot. When they sing, certain words pop out of a song in a unique way.
Martin Johnson is a regular contributor to The Root.