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The Ballad of Conor Oberst

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Oberst was raised Catholic, and has a long-standing attraction to people of faith, whether they believe in a traditional religion or extraterrestrials. “Whenever I meet someone who really follows something, I’m interested,” he says. “But ultimately I think all beliefs are the same. They all want to think we’re more than just this, that we can see and touch. I don’t look down upon them. I’m actually in awe. But there is always something for me that is a turnoff or breaks the suspension of disbelief.” Still, he enjoys the chase. “It keeps me learning and engaged, which is important. I think there’s a danger, for me at least, in retreating and going inward and depression. I have to stay diligent against that tendency.”

Lest you think Oberst spends his time sitting in a lotus position contemplating important things, he is—despite having avoided the headlines of self-destruction that accompany rock stardom—someone who likes to have a good time. He says his favorite feelings—other than “creating something out of nothing, the moment when a new song exists”—are “totally bad for you.” And with all his talk of adulthood, he’s not entirely ready to cast off the mantle of cool young outsider for rooted grown-up. “That seems very romantic and nice but far off,” he says of things like marriage and starting a family. “Every time I get around kids, I’m like, Fuck no—even around friends’ kids who I love. I mean, I’m very childlike, so in the right context I could do some playing and stuff, but so much with a kid is feigning excitement about what they’re doing, and I have trouble faking interest in anything.”


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