Mark Knopfler Talks About His Most Patient and Sympathetic Songs to Date

Mark Knopfler is a tough guy to pin down. A reluctant sultan of swing, if you will. Fame? He can’t think of anything good about it; in fact, he eschews it instinctively. But he’s been in its shadow since Dire Straits debuted their self-titled album of lyrical portraits in 1978 — he was their sole songwriter and de facto leader until their breakup in the early ’90s — cementing it further with 1985’s epochal Brothers in Arms and a steady collection of solo outings in the subsequent decades.

Knopfler’s lineage now includes One Deep River (out April 12), an elegant record that’s a culmination of everything we know and admire about his style. “I’m always thinking about another crowd, another arena, another place, another time,” he tells me, “and another reality.” This type of geographical osmosis is at the core of Knopfler’s work, which has reverence for the past as much as the future. His rich, fluid guitar playing is just an added bonus. But if you try to compliment him on it, you might be met with a laugh: “I didn’t know what I was doing. At least I was there.”

If you were to look at the last tour set, it would be anything that was still part of the picture. “Brothers in Arms” or “Romeo and Juliet” perhaps. “Sailing to Philadelphia.” They survived the trip. It’s quite nice to be able to go on playing those songs because you’ve written them and they mean a lot to people. So I don’t just skate over them; I try to find something in there that’s new and interesting. You try to get the most out of songs and they take a lot of playing. If you try, the song will try, too. Surely you never know if you will survive the trip. When you set out to write something, you never say to yourself, “Oh, this is going to be good all the way.” Nobody knows that. It’s like a love affair. You don’t know, for sure, where it’s going. I’ve been lucky a few times and had some things that stuck.It's not Dire Straits, but Mark Knopfler's new album is a testament to his  musical genius. | by Or Mishal | Apr, 2024 | Medium

Another part of the fun is touring, which I’ve got to contemplate now as being something that’s over and done with. But I’m not scared of that, I’m quite happy about it, because what it means is that I’ll have more time to write. The first stage was getting used to having a guitar and then getting used to the idea that maybe I could play a little bit as a guitarist. And then, getting used to the idea that maybe I could write a song. And then thinking of myself as a songwriter is probably the last thing. I’m still adjusting to that and what I’m hoping to be able to do is write a couple of good songs before I quit.

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