I think stories tend to be better than truths, than aphorisms. If I say to you, “Slay three oxen and you will be forgiven.” Well, once you live in an oxen-free society, this is a meaningless piece of wisdom for me. If I tell you that there was a man and he only had three oxen, but he thought that if he gave them to his God, his God would favor him—if I tell you that story instead of what to do, then you might say, “This is a story about a guy who really stepped out on faith, about a guy who was willing to give more than he had, or more than he could afford to give to express his gratitude at having anything at all.” That’s a meaningful story. I think that’s why this stuff for me is meaningful. It’s couched in stories, and stories never lose meaning. Stories just generate new meaning forever.
AVC: Do you think that love of a story is the basis for your use of storytelling songwriting?
JD: We’re comparing gods and ants here with my little songs. [Laughs.] I tell stories that point out that even in the lowest trench, something’s funny. Everyone’s experienced that. You break an arm and you say, “Wow! This is hilarious! I’m lying on the floor with a goddamned broken arm.” I think that’s kind of what I do, is try to find more complex emotional scenes and locate the bitter drop of humor in them somewhere.