Nick Cave on why he was “disgusted” by ‘The Boatman’s Call’: “I felt I had exposed too much”

"A radical change was occurring in my songwriting"

Nick Cave has opened up on why he felt “disgusted” by his classic album ‘The Boatman’s Call’ and how, in time, he has developed a greater appreciation for the record.

The 1997 record is widely considered to be one of Cave’s greatest efforts with The Bad Seeds, featuring seminal tracks such as the seminal ‘Into My Arms’ and ‘(Are You) The One That I’ve Been Waiting For?’

Writing in the latest edition of his Red Hand Files, Cave responded to a fan who asked why he opted to play tracks from the album during his recent livestream show at London’s Alexandra Palace.


“After ‘The Boatman’s Call’ came out I experienced a kind of embarrassment. I felt I had exposed too much. These hyper-personal songs suddenly seemed indulgent, self-serving amplifications of what was essentially an ordinary, commonplace ordeal. All the high drama, the tragedy and the hand wringing ‘disgusted’ me, and I said so in press interviews,” Cave explained.

“In time, however, I learned that the disgust was essentially the fear and shame experienced by someone who was swimming the uncertain waters between two boats — songs that were fictional and songs of an autobiographical or confessional nature. A radical change was occurring in my songwriting, despite myself, and such changes can leave one feeling extremely vulnerable, defensive and reactive.”

Cave added: “Of course, I no longer see ‘The Boatman’s Call’ in that way, and understand that the record was a necessary leap into a type of songwriting that would ultimately become exclusively autobiographical — ‘Skeleton Tree’ and ‘Ghosteen’, for example — but, conversely, less about myself and more about our collective ‘selves’. When I sang the ‘The Boatman’s Call’ songs for the Idiot Prayer film, they no longer felt like cries emanating from the small, yet cataclysmic, devastations of life.

“They became more about a spiritual liberation from the self, about something broader and more comprehensive — not transcendent exactly — but expansive, in that they collected us all up in the commonality of the experience they attempt to describe. At least, I hoped so.”


This comes after Cave recently confirmed that he’s been at work on a new album called ‘CARNAGE’.

After cancelling his already rescheduled 2021 UK and European tour due to the spread of coronavirus, Cave previously told fans that he felt it was now “opportunity to take stock” and “time to make a new record“.

Writing on The Red Hand Files, Cave replied to a fan’s question to confirm that he has been in the studio with regular collaborator and Bad Seeds bandmate Warren Ellis to make the follow-up to 2019’s acclaimed ‘Ghosteen‘.