Lanois Soul Mining

“Being an artist is, in and of itself, an incredible parable for having faith.You’re in this position where you have to step into the unknown without hesitancy, with all your resources and with every intention of seeing it through and you know it might be disastrous”

My good friend Scott Jamison put this quotation from artist Linnea Gabriella Spransy up as his Facebook status as I was reading Daniel Lanois’ biography and it might be a review in a nutshell. Lanois’ memoir reaks of a man who lives and breathes his own art, whether songwriter or producer . He is so committed that love and family life never seem to be in his picture. It seems as though one night as a child that music stood at his bedroom door and said “Follow me...” and Daniel did. This is a book that flits about like Lanois’ life, the book from past to present and everywhere in between, the life from Quebec to Ontario to California to New York to Mexico to New Orleans with Dublin and various other spots in between.

If the reader is looking for lengthy detail about his work with Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel, Brandon Flowers, Robbie Robertson, Neville Brothers, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris and particularly U2 then they might be a little disappointed. Lanois writes about them all but it is merely moments and never too detailed. The key to the whole thing is most perfectly described when he is working with U2. It is during the Joshua Tree sessions and Lanois is waxing lyrical about Bono improvising and thus transforming a song. He writes, “This is a wonderful magic place to get to, the room of splintered metal I call it, where you can only respond to what is thrown your way. Years of knowledge and life experience exorcised out of mind and bodies. The room full of splintered metal and shattered glass is the birthplace of some of my U2 favourites...”

This quote, and indeed the very title of the book, betrays the spirituality at the heart of Lanois’ life and work. Throughout the book Lanois speaks of his pedal steel guitar as his “Church in a suitcase.” He writes of seeing God as a little bit like that room of splintered steel - “This is the same way that I see God, as little pieces flying by, tiny molecular pieces of information constantly flying by. Some people see them, some people don’t.”  In the end he thanks God for the ability to get excited and ends the book by encouraging other artists to find belief and passion.  God lurks everywhere and his belief in the transcendent is taken as read. We are back to Spransy’s quote. As I read about reflections on art I felt that it was spiritually informative and nourishing.

If you are a fan of the artists Lanois has worked with as listed above then you’ll be intrigued. If you are an artist yourself then I’d say it is an obligatory textbook. He brings such wisdom to the process. If you are a techie either to do with guitars or recording processes then this will be your Christmas come. Some reviews I’ve read speak of Lanois’ ego coming through. I didn’t see it. I saw a man who believes that he was created to do what he does and that his creations are dependent on much more than himself. He is more in awe of what he has been privileged to have been a part of than arrogant. I found it fascinating. An artist writing about the mystery of art in a beautifully creative and artistic way.


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