Merle Haggard, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Frank Dillane: Today’s Recommended Reading

Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing some of the best content on the internet, but keeping an eye on all of the great writing that other folks on the ‘Net are doing, too. Today, we’ve got a piece from Pitchfork that outlines Merle Haggard’s impact on country music, an interview with Fear the Walking Dead‘s great Frank Dillane, a profile of the underrated Carly Rae Jepsen, and, for something much different — and, arguably, much more important — a look at what it means to be labeled “schizophrenic.”

First, James Rettig’s large feature over at Stereogum. Rettig has championed Carly Rae Jepsen since Emotion was released, so it’s nice to see him get to flex on a super-long piece on the Canadian pop songstress. There’s not a whole lot to gather from the piece, though, and that’s kind of the point. Rettig’s ultimate conclusion is that Jepsen, while certainly a formidable musical voice, doesn’t seem to know where she wants to go from here. Also, she hates Peeps. 

“It blew all of our minds that the people who have been coming to see us have spent time with the album and were singing the songs with us,” she says, comparing the experience to performances in the shadow of “Call Me Maybe.” “That was really new for me, and such a dream of mine to be able to share with a crowd of people. I’ll be having a bummer day, and we’ll get onstage and it’s just an hour-and-a-half that you want to be able to stop time for because it feels so worth it…

“Sometimes mid-performance, I’ll catch eyes with somebody or see a moment between a couple, and I’ll almost forget the words because I’m so taken out of it in the best way. It feels so wonderful to be a part of that,” she continues. “The room always feels really full of love. I think that’s made me more confident as a performer because I never step up there and feel judged. I step up there and feel like we’re all there to celebrate.”

Merle Haggard died yesterday at age 79. He was one of the first, actual “outlaw” singers of country music, and in his own way he forever transformed the genre. Not so much in image, but in his ability to fuse “country, blues, jazz, and pop.” It’s all broken down over at Pitchfork’s “Why Merle Haggard Was a Country Game Changer,” an essential read for anyone unfamiliar with the legend’s legacy. 

Over the years, this hybrid would be dubbed Americana but even at the time, there were plenty of musicians who recognized its vitality.Gram Parsons, pioneer of the Cosmic American Music that dressed Merle’s music in hippie clothes, wanted Haggard to produce his 1973 debut GP but Haggard passed, partially because he never was much for rock’n’roll, partially because the producer role never suited him. He wasn’t a mentor, he was a maverick and an iconoclast, one who cherished community while stubbornly forging his own path. He drew from tradition but refused to live in the past, not even when he wondered “Are The Good Times Really Over,” a 1981 hit released during his robust middle-age run.

The Observer has a brief interview with Frank Dillane, the young actor who played Tom Riddle in the Harry Potter films, but who also, more notably, plays Nick in the soon-to-be-returning Fear the Walking Dead. Dillane is especially effective when telegraphing Nick’s withdrawal from heroin in the first season, and his thoughts on that process touch curiously on the real difficulty of, uh, acting. 

It’s complicated when it comes to that stuff. I’m glad to be done with heroin, just because it is so difficult. You find yourself having to be very precise. It’s a lot of work as an actor when you get into something like heroin and drugs. You have to be precise and know exactly at what point what is happening. How long quitting cold turkey would last. What the conditions are at what point. Stuff like how many hours have passed since Nick last used. It was a bit like playing two people, yeah. All my attention was on the technicalities, really.

Writer Esmé Weijun Wang takes on an important, sensitive subject over at BuzzFeed. “Who Gets To Be The ‘Good Schizophrenic‘?” examines the overlooked hierarchy of mental illness, in which some are seen as imbuing those who have them with special sensory gifts, such as a certain level of emotional attentiveness or even intellectual genius. Wang’s personal history with mental illness earns her authority needed and appreciated in a piece like this, which is both necessary and touching. 

A natural hierarchy arose in the hospital, guided by both our own sense of functionality and the functionality perceived by the doctors, nurses, and social workers that treated us. Depressives, who constituted most of the ward’s population, were at the top of the chain, whether or not they were receiving ECT (electroconvulsive therapy). Because we were in the Yale Psychiatric Institute (now known as the Yale Psychiatric Hospital), many of those hospitalized with depression were Yalies, and therefore considered bright people who’d simply wound up in a bad situation.