“It’s a very simple song, again about loss and mortality. I think it would be hard for anyone to write about mortality without it being, to some degree, personal.
“Whether we like to admit it to ourselves or not, we’re all obsessed with mortality. And we should be, because we know that one day we’re going to cease to exist. We’re going to die. It’s the one thing that all human beings have in common. And possibly, we are the only species on earth that are aware of our own impending mortality. That’s such a heavy burden to carry around with you; it does affect everything in life.
“It’s about an old man at the end of his life who is waiting to die. He thinks back to a time in his childhood when he was incredibly close to his older sister. She was everything to him, and he was everything to her. Unfortunately, she died when they were both very young. This is not autobiographical; it’s fiction in that respect. But the guy is now at the end of his life, and he’s never been able to form any other kind of relationships. He’s spent his entire life alone, unable to relate to any other human beings.
“A raven begins to visit this man’s garden, and the raven begins to represent a symbol or a manifestation of his sister. The thing is, his sister would sing to him whenever he was afraid or insecure, and it was a calming influence on him. In his ignorance, he decides that if he can get the raven to sing to him, it will be the final proof that this is, in fact, his sister who has come back to take him with her to the next life.
“One of the things about my lyrics is, I try to be simple. I do it with the music, too. I don’t like things to be complex, intellectual or obtuse just for the sake of it. I love the simplicity of certain phrases. What’s special about being to say ‘I love you,’ but in a new way… it’s so hard to do that. They’re such clichés, in a way. Being afraid to love someone, being in love with someone… if you can find a way to make these things sound fresh again, that’s a really special thing to do.
“The one worry I had with all of the guys but particularly with Guthrie, my new guitar player – because Guthrie is such an extraordinary guitar player; he’s one of these guys who can shred and play a lot of notes. He can wipe the floor with so many guys. I turned to him with this song and said, ‘Are you OK with this? I’m only asking you to play two or three notes.’ I thought it might be dull for him. And he said, ‘No, I love doing it, because they’re the right three notes, and it’s the right thing to play for the song.’ That, to me, was a very profound thing for him to say.
“If you give people something where the simplicity is the way to go, and it’s all about the feeling… It’s about breaking your heart with one note rather than appealing to your intellect with a thousand notes. They love it! Guthrie was having a great time playing these notes, because he felt that it was the right thing for this piece of music.
“The biggest thing is to make people feel. It’s easy to appeal to the intellect. I could go and write some silly, complicated shit, but the hardest thing is to hit somebody’s heart and soul. I want spirituality rather than technicality.”