Billy Bragg Interview: Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Party ‘Review Time’ And The Magic Of The US Railroad

Billy has been a tireless balladeer for nearly 40 decades, seamlessly blending the political and the personal on such timeless songs as ‘A New England’, ‘Sexuality’ and ‘Between the Wars’. 

After all these years, I wonder… would Billy describe himself as an activist or a romantic?

“So few political people write political songs, I now stand out,” he reflects. “But really up close, the songs are in the cannon of love songs. The world is not just about politics.”

He pauses. “I think I just want people to feel less alone.”

And after all this time at the coal-face, is it still easy to get fired up, either romantically or politically, for music?

“There’s a huge cost of blood and treasure involved in making music,” he begins. “It costs money to make music, it costs money to promote it. I don’t have the same urgency I used to have, but it’s always been about performing live for me, about turning up at festivals. I think I’ve been to a dozen festivals this summer.”

No small feat for a man in his 59th year, but it seems Billy is committed to the cause, both politically and creatively. 

“I have no choice but to continue to lean in,” is how he describes it. “I would be such a hypocrite to stand on the sidelines now.”

But doesn’t he ever get tired of digging deep, when his 1970s and ‘80s peers have long since contented themselves with nostalgic merry-go-rounds? Or penning far more lucrative, pop fare? Does Billy secretly wish he had a song for Britney in him?

“I wish I could,” he chuckles. “And I certainly get cynical like everybody else. I watch the TV, but if you want to make the world a better place, you have to take part. The enemy is not capitalism, but cynicism. It’s not even the Daily Mail, they’re just doing their job.

“I keep the faith. A gig is unity, whatever the emotions, and if it happens to be political, it can be very powerful.”

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