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Will 2010 bring a new studio album from Tom Waits? Quite possibly.

December 23, 2009 |  1:34 pm

Waits Tom Waits hasn't got a clue what shape his next album will take, but he reveals he's begun writing for his first new studio collection since 2006's acclaimed  “Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards,” a three-disc set that also included some older rare tracks. A new album could be arriving later in 2010, though he insists, “Anything I would tell you right now, I would just be making it up.

“We may record sometime in the spring,” he says by phone from his home in Sonoma County. “You're never sure how long it will take. You write two songs and you put them in a room together and they have offspring.”

It's already been a prolific season for the musician-actor, with a just-released live album from his 2008 Glitter and Doom tour, and two feature films about to debut: Terry Gilliam's surreal “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,” opening Friday, followed in January by “The Book of Eli” with Denzel Washington.

Whatever form his new music takes, Waits will piece the songs together in his usual workspace with wife and collaborator Kathleen Brennan.

“I have an old schoolhouse where we work. High ceilings, wood floors, just a room,” he says. “Whether you're recording on a little hand-held tape recorder or with a $1,000 microphone, it's all the same drama: Oh my God, we're going to do something here.”

He calls songwriting a form of time travel, magically delivering ideas and emotions from one moment to another in the unknowable future. “You have this device for capturing something that doesn't necessarily want to be captured,” he says. “Songs are really just emotional containers of abstract things. Nobody really knows what they are.

“It's like diamond-cutting or hunting for bear or dropping out of a tree. Sometimes, it's like ping-pong. Other times it's like operating on a flamingo. Every song's different. Some are like empty swimming pools, and you've got to be the water.”

-- Steve Appleford

Tom Waits photo: Michael O'Brien

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