In the immediacy that was Rumination's "rough magic", Oberst found it compulsory to record right away, regardless of initial intent. Salutations takes that same original instrumental vision, adding fuller sounds and extra tracks. An usual display of duality, but since his emergence in the early-90s, Oberst has rarely done things in the expected manner.
Over the past 25 years Oberst has performed and released music under a variety of names and aliases. Early projects Commander Venus, The Faint and The Magnetas, eventually evolving into his breakout, solo project, Bright Eyes. With 2002's Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground, Oberst received widespread recognition, garnering praise and a cult-like devotion, following him even as he splintered off into several other new projects, including Desaparecidos, the Monsters of Folk supergroup and, eventually, under his own name, both solo and alongside The Mystic Valley Band.
His vast back catalogue and influence continues with the Ruminations and Salutations pair, both taking two approaches to celebrating Oberst's legacy as one of the great modern songwriters.
In commeration of the latest release, we recently hosted a "round table" discussion with Australian songwriters Caitlin Park, Ben Lee and Busby Marou's Tom Busby to discuss the moment when they first discuss the magic of Oberst and how he continues to influence their own work.
Caitlin Park: "I first heard Conor's music as Bright Eyes when I was in my teens. Someone made me a mix CD, which had a haunting black and white image on the front, maybe of a tree."
Ben Lee: "Michelle Williams gave me Fevers and Mirrors in 2000. She had seen Bright Eyes play a small club in Chapel Hill and was blown away. I first met Conor when he was living in New York City and had just recorded I'm Wide Awake It's Morning. He played me some of the songs on acoustic guitar one night. That record will always hold a special place in my heart."
Tom Busby: "Bright Eyes were supporting R.E.M. at the Boondal Entertainment Centre in 2005. There was a moment when the band walked off and left Conor on stage to perform solo. It was one of the few live music moments that are never forgotten."
Ben Lee: "[I was] hanging out in a bar in New York City and talking to Conor about God and music. Conor looked at me and said, 'same thing'. Still makes me smile."
Caitlin Park: "[He's] truthful, and his voice is so conversational. It feels like you are chatting with an old friend. The black and white tree on that mix CD, that's what the music does to you; sears a picture in your mind forever."
Tom Busby: "[I like] the real stories and the picture he paints with just a few words. Conor has always been passionate and unafraid to show the world."
Tom Busby: "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning was the first record that made me realise that country music can be as rock n roll and cool as anything else out there. As a young songwriter and country boy, this was important to me, especially because radio stations like Triple J and most commercial stations had most people believing that 'country' is a bad word."
Caitlin Park: "[His music has inspired me] to wear my musical uniqueness proudly. When I hear ['Milk Thistle'] it makes me feel warm, it makes me want to curl up inside while its raining outside. It makes me want to pick up a guitar. I love the simplicity and its vulnerability."
Tom Busby: "It has definitely help shape my story telling. I'm always trying to write clever and simple but it's so much harder than it sounds. He nails it!"
Ben Lee: "Conor has remained resolutely anti-commercial in a way that I admire. I was much more tempted by pop stardom than he was. He seems to always have known which side his bread was buttered on."