When The Irishman is released in fall 2019, it will mark the 11th Martin Scorsese film that Robbie Robertson has contributed music to—a collaboration that began with the director’s landmark documentary about The Band’s final performance, 1978’s The Last Waltz. These bookends factor heavily into Robertson’s sixth album, Sinematic, an (obviously) cinema-inspired work that draws from being steeped in the lore surrounding the gangster opus as well as the complicated reminiscences of The Band, triggered by another film project altogether. “Almost from the beginning, my creative process was connected to working on music for The Irishman,” Robertson tells Apple Music. “Then because of the documentary for the 50th anniversary of The Band and what that stirred up, I wrote a song called ‘Once Were Brothers,’ which is now the name of the documentary. All of that interweaves, and as I started recording these songs, I started to see each one as a little movie in my mind. I never thought of things like that before in all the years I’ve been doing what I do; this is the first time all those pieces have all come together.” Grab some popcorn and sit back as Robertson talks through some of the flicks on Sinematic. I Hear You Paint Houses (feat. Van Morrison) “The book that The Irishman is based on is called I Heard You Paint Houses, meaning ‘I hear that you kill people for the mob’—painting houses is the splattering of blood. Very pleasant subject matter we have here. I wrote this thing and then Van Morrison came to town and said, ‘What are you working on?’ and I said, ‘Well, I just wrote this song and it’s based on this thing with Marty.’ He heard it and I said, ‘Do you want to sing on it?’ and he said yes. Glen Hansard sings on the album too, and he is also Irish—it’s all very incestuous.“ Once Were Brothers “Three of the guys in The Band are no longer with us, and I’m a little worried about Garth [Hudson], too. So there’s a sadness in my heart about this. The documentary is moving and the story of this brotherhood is really special and I couldn’t help but write about it. What we were at one time evolved to another place, and then they weren’t with us anymore, so that whole distance and that whole feeling in the heart is what I was trying to express.” Hardwired “I carry the past around with me like anybody does, but my motor and my motivation is moving forward. So I’m in the moment and can’t help but reflect on what strikes us today, and there are these two sides of the big coin of life: We are hardwired for love and we are hardwired for war. We used to be a voice of a generation, so I can’t help but have that reflex that needs to talk about what we’re feeling. I’m not preaching. A lot of music today, it’s really about nothing. When I was very young, I was working with Bob Dylan and the music was about something and about looking at things from a more soulful place.” Shanghai Blues “It’s about another mobster, an early mobster, and this guy made Al Capone look like a lightweight. Because I’m working on a movie about a man who’s killed 25 people and then I’m reading about this incredible underworld figure in China who was more badass than anybody. It’s just this parallel, like, ‘Oh, you think this guy was badass? Here’s another guy who was even more badass.’” Wandering Souls “There’s something about, for me, a way of playing the guitar that is more physical and more sensitive, and almost sensual—it’s all just fingers on steel. It’s just a way I like to play every once in a while. I sit down, pick up a guitar, and I don’t have a pick or anything. Sometimes it reminds me vaguely of Curtis Mayfield. And in this case, it just felt like a beautiful interlude in talking about a lot of people killing one another.” The Shadow “One of my earliest memories is before television, of people saying, ‘Oh, it’s 7:00, it’s time,’ and everyone goes in like we’re going to sit around and look at someting but it’s just this sound coming out of the radio: Orson Welles as The Shadow. As a kid, it gave me shivers. I’m also paying tribute to Welles, who I think was amazing in so many ways.” Beautiful Madness “This is a reflection on a period that I’m thinking about in the late ’70s, when it seemed like everybody was crazy and there was something in the air, in the culture, that was experimenting with madness. And nobody was saying, ’I don’t know, maybe this isn’t good.’ Some of it was dangerous; some people experimented and didn’t come out the other side.” Praying for Rain “The most precious commodity in our future is going to be water. I’m from Canada, and there’s a lot of water up there. Canada’s going to be the place, because they got all the water and they don’t have all that water everywhere else.” Remembrance “My dear friend Paul Allen passed away—he was the co-founder of Microsoft and he played guitar and two of his favorite guitar players were Derek Trucks and Doyle Bramhall. And so when he passed away, Derek and Doyle and myself played guitar in honor of Paul. We all felt a tremendous loss in that. That is actually being used at the end of The Irishman.”

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