RS Country have run a nice interview today with Gillian Welch who had a brief encounter with the world of the Academy Awards in 2000, when the Coen Brothers’ “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Cinematography. The soundtrack featured contributions from Welch although she didn’t get any nominations herself. Anyway nearly two decades on, she and partner David Rawlings are still close with the Coens and this time around she’s got a nomination for the song ‘When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings’ (which without hearing what the other nominations are, definitely deserves to win – you can hear it below). She explained to RS how the song came about:
“They gave David and I the script, and they gave us the script of maybe two other of the shorts in the collection so we could gauge the darkness [laughs]. That’s one of the great things about working with them — they totally understand the very, very close relationship between the darkness and the humor. They also know us well enough by now that it’s best to give us a long lead time. We don’t do really well with like, “Hurry up!” and “We need it by Friday.” You see how they do what they do, and part of it is they really, really understand the people they work with and how to get the best work from them.
And then there was just a really basic conversation [with Joel Coen]. He was like, “Look, there’s the singing cowboy — he’s been around for a while. Now here comes the new guy. He’s cuter, he’s faster and he sings better. He’s just better. It’s the new model. He’s coming for him.” And, of course, it made it really special for us that onscreen, that younger, better, faster gunslinger was gonna be our dear friend Willie Watson. We know the singers we’re gonna be writing for. Joel just said, “Here’s the specifics of it. They have to be able to sing it together. They have to be able to sing it once Tim has been shot and is dead and is floating up to heaven.” This is a duet between singing cowboys, one of whom is dead. [laughs].”
You can read the whole interview over here.