Bill Fay

Who Is The Sender? (Dead Oceans)

Contact Jacob Daneman about Bill Fay

Ask Bill Fay about his relationship with his instrument and he says something revealing, not “Ever since I learnt to play the piano”, but “Ever since the piano taught me…” What the piano taught him was how to connect to one of the great joys of his life. “Music gives,” he says. And he is a grateful receiver. But, it makes him wonder, “Who is the sender?”

 

Fay – who after more than five decades writing songs is finally being appreciated as one of our finest living practitioners of the art – asserts that, for him, songs aren’t actually written but found.

 

Shown a simple piano piece by his sister-in-law when he was around 15, Fay began exploring how it worked and opened up a whole new world, the realm of chords. Once he’d discovered their emotional power, and how finding the right blend of chords and harmony made him want to sing melodies and conjure words, he became immersed in that world, and has been ever since.

 

He recorded two phenomenal – and completely different sounding – albums, Bill Fay and Time Of The Last Persecution for Decca offshoot Nova in 1970 and 1971, which were largely overlooked at the time, but whose undoubted power sent out enough ripples to find important admirers many years later. Among them was label owner Colin Miles who reissued them on CD in 1998 and thereby alerted a new generation to Bill’s work. After 27 years of neglect, people like Nick Cave, Jim O’ Rourke and Jeff Tweedy were praising those records in glowing terms. Tweedy even began covering Fay’s Be Not So Fearful at Wilco shows.

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