T Bone Burnett has produced pretty much any artist you’d want to listen to and even had a prolific solo career in his own right.
But it’s rare to get original songs from him these days. Which is why his new project is so intriguing.
Well, that and the fact that it’s a spoken-word concept album about technology.
The Grammy and Oscar winner is working on “The Invisible Light,” a piece he describes as … let’s just allow him to describe it.
“It’s an electronic music record — I’m calling it ‘spoken-word beat music,’ ” Burnett said in a phone interview with The Times. “It’s really a long poem broken into different songs — probably 1,000 or 1,200 lines [so far]. But it definitely has a whole narrative component too. There’s a lot of satire. It’s a funny record, a comedy record. But it’s also scary.”
And what’s it about exactly now?
“The subject is essentially an autonomous technology has taken over the world and rendered the differences in all culture superficial.”
That sounds a little … optimistic? Not so techno-skeptical? Like, more utopian than dystopian?
“It’s I-topian. One of the discs [there are at least two] is called I-topian.” He paused. “Which is probably dystopian.”
Burnett, known recently for overseeing the music on “True Detective,” has put out a half-dozen albums of his own songs over his career but hasn’t done so in a while; the last major work was “The True False Identity,” more than a decade ago. Like “Invisible Light,” that one also dealt with ontological questions.
Burnett said there won’t be much guitar on the new record, though it will feature drums (veteran drummer Jay Bellerose) and some keyboards too.
He's not sure when the tech-focused album will come out — “maybe fall? I’ve just been writing like crazy” — and isn’t even sure how he wants to bring it out, though he’s been thinking about a vinyl-only release to start with.
“That would be ironic, wouldn’t it?” he said slyly, when the irony was pointed out.
In addition to writing his own material lately, the colorful producer also has been working on “Drawn & Recorded,” an animated music series, available on Spotify, that looks at music fables from the likes of Nirvana and T.I.
And as new artists like Chance the Rapper find ways to use streaming to their advantage, he’s been keeping an eye on how technology can change music too. He’s at once hopeful about the possibilities but also skeptical, especially when it comes to data and metrics shaping the creation of material itself.
“I think ultimately what technology will allow is for artists to become part of a collective,” he said. “It’s the same thing that happened with orange growers — there’s a collective that deals with issues and makes them stronger; you don’t necessarily need to be part of a big label.
“And if we’re lucky,” he added, “it's the artist that will change the world, not the technologists.” Yep, definitely dystopian.
See the most-read stories in Entertainment this hour »
Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times