Willy Vlautin in conversation with Sarah Hall at Rough Trade East
Portland band Richmond Fontaine’s lead singer/songwriter Willy Vlautin is a wise man, and like all sage men he is shy but resolute, with several stories to reveal. With his band, Vlautin has been disclosing to us, for more than 15 years, stories about losers and the defeated. In fact, his songs about the borders of the empire – a lonely America without winners and without salvation – have been the leitmotif of Richmond Fontaine’s music on records like Thirteen Cities and Obliteration by Time. To go along with these frames and pictures, Vlautin and his band play an evocative alt-country music, which has always been the perfect soundrack for the down-and-out.
Together with his music project, Vlautin is also an excellent writer who has just released his fourth novel The Free, after The Motel Life (2005), Northline (2007)and Lean on Pete (2010). For his novels Vlautin won an award, and is critically acclaimed by the New York Times and the Washington Post. His first novel (The Motel Life) was transformed into a movie in November 2013. The USA’s tradition of stories of boundaries and border people, who can’t afford to or can no longer stand living this life, is long and deep, and as a novelist Vlautin has never hidden his link to this great American tradition of novelists, like Carver or Steinbeck. A massive influence on Vlautin’s style is Sherwood Anderson, probably the best American writer ever. Loneliness, frustrations and limitations are the classic topics of American literature, and Vlautin in his latest novel The Free keeps with the tradition with a story of three characters who are looking for a solution to their pains and existential crises
Yesterday at Rough Trade East, Vlautin presented his novel in a Q&A with the English writer Sarah Hall (author of The Electric Michelangelo, Daughters of the North, Haweswater). Chatting and joking with the audience, Vlautin showed an unexpected, hilarious aspect of his personality, besides a bright acumen. After the Q&A with Hall and the audience, Vlautin played a couple of songs from his repertoire. Here is, most certainly, an excellent writer with a brilliant sense of taste.
For further information and future events visit Willy Vlautin and Richmond Fontaine’s website here.