SXSW Interview: Emmylou Harris
Austin Convention Center, Thursday, March 15
Emmylou Harris and filmmaker Jonathan Demme must be kindred spirits. Playing the parts of interviewer and interviewee, the duo joked and jabbered about age and love; Harris' "gift from God," Buddy Miller; her relationship with the legendary Gram Parsons; and the experience of making Demme's doc Heart of Gold with Neil Young. Demme's conversational style created an intimacy in which the silver-clad beauty, who turns 60 in August, relished. "I was always focused on the words, the sound of the words, the mental image of the words," Harris replied when Demme inquired about her singing style. "The singing was incidental." Chilling songs scattered throughout the interview, matched by Miller's exquisite guitar, elevated the interview to greater heights: the Louvin Brothers' "If I Could Only Win Your Love," Gillian Welch's "Orphan Girl," "Love Hurts," "Green Pastures," and one of the saddest songs ever written, Harris' grieving "Boulder to Birmingham," penned after the loss of Parsons. "It's so amazing how life works," she said of meeting Parsons. "You've got to believe there's a plan."