In an article, musician PJ Harvey talks about staying vital and creative.
“I think of myself more as an explorer than as a maker of pop music,” PJ Harvey said while she was in town to play a sold-out show at the Orpheum Theatre [in 2007] supporting “White Chalk,” her latest album.
“I don’t want to stick to any one plan.”
For Harvey, trying on different musical roles is essential.
“[Each album] is like an experimentation, to see what I am capable of doing,” she said, adding that her art-school background — she’s also a sculptor — has contributed to this approach.
Yet “White Chalk” continues to sound out the emotional themes — desire, friendship, love, loss — that have fascinated Harvey since her 1992 debut, “Dry.”
“That is the consistent thing for me,” she said. “I’m concerned with the human condition. And that takes shape in the form of, not only what goes on in my life, but what I see going on around me, everything from an immediate level to a much more global level.”
To Harvey, her songs are like “paintings or film scenes,” visual vignettes more novelistic than confessional. A novelist, she mused, “is seen as a writer. And I see what I do in a similar way.” She added that maybe the difference is that “writers don’t stand on stage and perform their work.”
As a “visual person,” Harvey needs to regularly put herself in unfamiliar locations. She resides in rural Dorset, the English county where she grew up, but she’s lived in London, New York, L.A. and other places.
“It’s so easy to slip into not seeing your surroundings when you’re in the same place every day,” she said. Relocating can be frightening. “But it brings up all manner of ways of singing, speaking, writing, relating, in a way I just couldn’t [otherwise do]. It’s really important for us as human beings to try and keep moving ourselves into unknown territory.”
From “PJ Harvey emerges from the musical laboratory,” By Natalie Nichols, Los Angeles Times, October 26, 2007]
Image from her album White Chalk.
In her article Habit Experiments, Jennifer Louden, gives some concrete examples of exploring: “A few years ago I spent 8 days just off Vancouver Island, British Columbia with my family; paddling kayaks, watching orcas, seeing bear eat crab, and sniffing drifting wood smoke….
“Switch back to the city… A friend takes me to an opera. I don’t like opera. I go because I like her. Sitting in the darkness, voices entwine my heart, something breaks free in my belly and careens out, showering my body in goose bumps. A new me opens because of what is happening up on that stage.”