Jackson Browne unveiled a sleek new song, “Downhill From Everywhere,” just in time for Earth Day (April 22nd).
The song will be released as a single paired with his recent track “A Little Soon to Say” as the B-side. Both will be included on his upcoming studio album, out October 9th.
“Downhill from everywhere/Downhill from all you see/The ocean is downhill from gravity,” Browne sings along a smooth guitar riff. “Downhill from here/Downhill from everywhere/Downhill from all of humanity.”
Browne has been working on “Downhill From Everywhere” for the past 10 years. The song will be featured in an upcoming documentary, The Story of Plastic, premiering on Earth Day via the Discovery Channel. The film details the plastic crisis and the pollution that spans three continents — and the devastating effect it’s had on the planet. Browne himself is a member of the Executive Advisory Board on the Plastic Pollution Coalition, an alliance that strives for a future free of plastic.
“Plastic is a great and really useful thing,” he tells Rolling Stone. “But it’s just absurd that we use it to deliver things, just to deliver water to people in packaging. That stuff will be around for hundreds of years and does not biodegrade. So this movement has got a lot of attention and a lot of support. Because it’s so obvious to people that it’s a problem. It’s no longer something that can be sort of swept under the rug.”
“One of my favorite quotes about the plastic problem was from Jonathan Richman,” Browne says. “He said, ‘This is not going to be easy.’ I love that, because that’s what you have to commit yourself to. It’s not going to be easy at all. That’s the problem — everybody only wants to do shit that’s easy. All we want to do is the easy stuff.”
According to Browne, the hard part is convenience. “You have to tell yourself that even when you’re thirsty, you’re not going to reach over and grab that plastic bottle that you were offered by somebody,” he says. “There’s the illusion that the water is somehow clean, but it comes out of a pipe in Delaware or New Jersey. It has nothing to do with the mountain range they put on the water bottle to make you think it’s coming from snow. The water industry is really despicable.”
Browne has made efforts to limit his own use of plastic, eliminating it from his tour and keeping two Brita filters in his kitchen. “One is narrow so I can put in my suitcase and one’s nice and big,” he says. “I never go to my car without a steel reusable water bottle because I get thirsty driving.”
“Downhill From Everywhere” was inspired by Dr. Paul Ehrlich’s Eco-Catastrophe!, a book from 1969 that also inspired Browne’s 1974 classic “Before the Deluge.” “It’ll blow your mind how prophetic it is,” Browne says. “It just describes a way in which all the dysfunction of our society compounds and starts to unravel at a certain point. The world is in tenuous balance all the time, and all the money that should go to ending poverty and solving diseases are going to the military and killing, and that’s a huge business.”
The book also described a future pandemic. “That was the scary part then, and it’s coming through now,” he says. “We’re not equipped to deal with a pandemic because we don’t put the money there. We don’t put our interest there. We’re not honoring our doctors and our scientists. We’re honoring the people who — as I say in ‘Before the Deluge’ — who learned how to forge the world’s beauty into power.”
Browne has also acknowledged how the Earth has been healing amid the coronavirus pandemic. “People have gotten a glimpse of what it’s like to have no smog,” he says. “Nature has gotten a break, and it’s visible; you can see it. People are suddenly saying, ‘Oh, yeah, this is what it’s like when the skies are clear and birds are singing!’ People in Spain were telling me, ‘We saw dolphins swimming, and we never see that.’ The natural world is sort of coming back.”
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