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Despite the laid-back atmosphere, the songwriting focuses on characters pushed to breaking points.Many of the songs revolve around destinations of wellness and escape: vacations, silent retreats, “little moments of purpose.” Such ideas have fascinated Oberst since his 2007 pivot-point , and they’ve never really left his work since.
“We hang out in here a lot,” Oberst says, reclaiming his spot on the couch, across from a stack of photos he’s been signing for fans who preorder his new album, “Have a good summer,” he’s written on one; “Sorry about everything,” on another.
In his denim vest, black jeans, and boots, mirrored Wayfarers hanging from the neck of his T-shirt, Oberst looks like an older but not particularly grown-up version of the sensitive boy wonder he was when he first emerged from the heartland a decade and a half ago, a persona subsequently name-checked in Jonathan Franzen’s as shorthand for privileged 21st-century idealism.
The whole vibe of this house, which matches Oberst’s current vibe in general, is that of a kid whose parents have been away for the summer and left him the credit card and the key to the liquor cabinet.
For each declaration of acceptance, there’s a bleaker attempt at finding closure: doomed visions of digging people up from the ground or driving until you feel different.
In “Chesapeake,” the album’s slow-burning centerpiece, Bridgers and Oberst share a formative memory, sitting on someone’s shoulders during a concert: “We were the tallest person watching in Chesapeake,” they sing in harmony.
“We do a lot of nightcap work,” Oberst says, gesturing out the sliding glass doors to another building, visible over the backyard fence, where he and Mike Mogis, a longtime friend and collaborator, write and record. Then he’ll text me to see if I’m awake, and I’ll go up there, too.” Omaha is Oberst’s hometown.