For the past few years I’ve been working on a biography of the quietly revolutionary and hugely influential American guitarist Bill Frisell.
An unlikely guitar hero for our genre-blurring times, Frisell has synthesised many disparate musical elements – from jazz to pop, folk to film music, ambient to avant-garde, country to classical – into one compellingly singular sound. He has broken down borders, transformed the language of his instrument, and forged a panoramic and pluralist new approach to American music.
Once described as “the favourite guitarist of many people who agree on little else in music”, Frisell connects to a diverse range of artists and admirers, including Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, Lucinda Williams, Gus Van Sant, Gerhard Richter, Van Dyke Parks, Charles Lloyd, John Zorn, Gavin Bryars, Gary Larson, Marianne Faithfull, and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. Everybody digs Bill Frisell.
This will be the first biography of the guitarist, and I have had unprecedented access to Frisell, speaking to and spending time with him over many days in various cities, both in the US and Europe. I’ve also interviewed his close family and friends, and almost everyone with whom Frisell has had a significant musical relationship.
The book, titled Bill Frisell, Beautiful Dreamer: The Guitarist Who Changed the Sound of American Music, will be published by Faber in March 2022.
(Photograph by Monica Frisell)