A record with a thesis statement? Why not?
Stevens is actually talking about getting away from this type of process on his new record, but I actually find the idea of applying my deeply-ingrained “academic” process to songwriting, at least when it comes to looking at a record as a group of songs around a single topic or story. Takes me back to many of my favorite “classic” records — Tommy, Sgt. Pepper, Red Headed Stranger, Blood on the Tracks: they all have either a central narrative (story) or a major theme that holds them together.
Still there is a discipline to his work. Stevens seems to work as a songwriting essayist – pick subject, write album around it.
“I studied fiction writing and I think a lot of my music is influenced by the fiction writing workshop experience.
“I think what I do is I come at things like a researcher would and this is probably because of all the conditioning from high school and university and being taught how to cultivate ideas and form a thesis and develop ideas to support a thesis.
“It’s sort of a very scholastic approach. I don’t think my music has much scholarship to it. But the process is definitely influenced by that procedure.”