Parenting Tips... With Kurt Vile
We sat down with Kurt Vile to talk about being a dad.
Being a parent is the most rewarding job any person can have, ever. Think about it: You're responsible for shaping a human life, instilling all of your loves and hates in a child until they basically become a mini version of yourself! Sure, it can be grueling work. Tantrums are obnoxious, cleaning up my language and their butt chocolate is frustrating, and not getting any sleep for about two years (if you’re lucky) may drive you temporarily insane. But it's all worth it, right? And who really needs sleep, you know? Yeah!
As a fan, a father, and writer of music, I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of a musician being a parent. I have a nine-to-five day job where I stare at a computer and go home every night for dinner and bedtime: Knowing how exhausting my life can be, I can’t imagine how it is for a musician, who has to tour the world, play an hour of so of music every other night, and then consume of drugs, alcohol, groupies or whatever. No, I don’t mean people like Steven Tyler, who either have six nannies, or people like ODB, who maybe don’t even know they have kids. I mean touring musicians who seem down to earth, somewhat normal and probably lead a somewhat normal life of domesticity.
Behind those long, flowing locks and that guitar, Kurt Vile is the father of two little girls. Having just released his fifth album, Wakin' On A Pretty Daze, Vile is currently gearing up to hit the road hard for the next few months. We caught up with Kurt in San Diego, as he was getting ready to head into the desert to play Coachella.
Noisey: Is your family there at Coachella with you?
Kurt Vile: No, my oldest daughter, she’s three, and I think she could handle it, but I also have a six-month-old now. She’s too young. It’s pretty crazy this festival, it’s like a freakin’ jungle. I don’t know if I want my kids to see that world yet. Usually they just come during a break, because the reality is that when I play music, especially in the early times [promoting a new record], I get so stressed. It takes a lot out of me. It’s obviously a full-time job to be a dad and we’ll work that in eventually, but it’s not the cushy lifestyle yet of touring with two separate buses. They definitely come in between and they’ll be coming to see me at a festival in Sweden. But right now, it’s early and so much is demanded of me.
What does your older daughter think when she sees you perform?
She’s seen it her whole life so she thinks it’s normal. She just watched my new video and sees it as a normal thing. She’s cute about it, but she’s not all, “Oh my god, my daddy!” She’s a little too slick for that.
Does she like your music?
Yeah, she does.
Does she ever critique your music?
No, she always likes it. And that’s a blood thing. I think they know it’s me at an early age. My wife Suzanne plays Delphine my music when she’s crying and she’ll stop. She definitely knows it’s me. It’s a blood, intuitive kind of thing.
So, how has it been juggling two children?
It’s been awesome. My wife is an amazing mom, and it’s easier now that I’m super full-time with music whereas before I was full-time too, but struggling and my wife was still working as a teacher. It was pretty brutal. But now it’s been accepted and I have to work on my music when I have to. And when I’m home, I’m home. There were a lot of growing pains. When I first had the two kids I thought, “Wow, this is hard!” It takes a month or so of adapting because even the thought of getting out of the house seems insane, the preparation of two kids. It’s not like it’s two times as hard, it’s five times as hard. Now, I’m so used to it so it’s not so hard. We’ve both had a couple of meltdowns.
What have you found to be the biggest struggle of being a dad slash musician?
Obviously you get used to being at home and surrounded by these little super innocent kids who are always happy and can’t get a grasp on the world, and then you have to go away. Ultimately, I’ve done it enough and that when I come back it goes by pretty quick. The harder I work at it the more money I can make. It’s the line of work where in theory you can play a bunch of festivals, license something, and make fast money.
Like that Bank of America ad you did? Patrick Stickles from Titus Andronicus called you out for doing that. But I mean, it’s really just a sign of the times. Selling records isn’t what it used to be.
Neil Young was always against that back in the day, but he was also a millionaire, and it was a new thing when rock and commerce collided. People can have their punk ideals, but I don’t really care about that kind of thing. I’m just as anti as anybody else, but I don’t pay attention. I don’t know if Bank of America has any kind of corruption, maybe they do since they’re a bank, but it doesn’t really matter. I just took their money. Nobody would have even known it was in the commercial, [Patrick] just heard through an inside source and he just decided to do whatever he does. I don’t care about that or him.
How often do you find yourself talking to other musicians about being a dad?
I talk about it a lot because of all the things they say. They just have so much meaning a joy, to have these fucking humans be a part of you that are so cute and so funny. I don’t know how much advice I give people, but I do encourage people who are getting a bit older who want kids. I’m lucky though because my kids are not planned, like we got all anxious and planned. It all just worked out.
Do any of the Violators have kids?
No, but my bandmate Rob is married and I think he’ll have kids eventually. He’s definitely father material. It will be interesting to watch his world completely change.
Is the song “Too Hard” about dialing back the party lifestyle?
I mean, it’s not so literal, it’s more like the idea. I do the turn around. It’s feeling love for your family and promising not to party too hard, but it’s too hard. I turned it around so everyone can relate. Obviously when you’re on the road it gets exhausting, it’s not like I go straight to bed every night. Or just do my sound check and sit in the corner. You’ve got to take the edge off sometimes. But it’s the general idea of going overboard is probably not a good idea.
How much would you say being a parent influences your songwriting?
All of my surroundings influence my songwriting, it’s autobiographical, although, I leave enough space so it’s relatable. It’s never like a day in the life, exactly. It definitely affects it because that’s who I am.
I really liked the promo you shot for “Never Run Away” with your daughter. Was she aware of it while you were filming it?
She knew we were making a movie, it’s not like she understands that the whole world saw it. She was like, “I had a kangaroo on my shoulder.” She was funny.
What kind of music does your daughter listen to?
She likes a lot of stuff that I listen to. It’s kind of funny, one of her favorite records is one of my favorite records from when I was a kid, which is this Rusty and Doug Kershaw record called Louisiana Man. My dad used to always play it. But she also likes Neil Young, she likes this one random Frank Zappa CD. She gets obsessive. I play her records and hand her the cover and she just gets super interested. It’s cute.
Speaking of album covers, the deluxe edition of your new album, Walkin’ On A Pretty Daze, comes with stickers. Have you given her a copy?
I did and she loves stickers, and she plays with it. She goes crazy for stickers. It’s pretty cool to have a daddy sticker, because there’s a sticker of me.
Finally, when it comes to parenting are you the good cop or the bad cop?
Oh, I’m totally the good cop. What am I gonna do, get all hardcore on her?