While Billy Bragg describes himself as a glass half full kind of person, he admits world politics is in a strange state at the moment.
“I think democracy has been short-circuited by those in power,” he said.
The British singer/songwriter, now 60, uses his music as a way to convey his ideas about the world’s political and social climate. At the end of the month he’ll be in Australia, amidst the backdrop of Brexit, Donald Trump’s presidency and the election campaign of Australia’s newest Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.
“At least the Americans can get rid of Trump,” he said. “We are stuck with Brexit.”
Bragg is set to bring his politically and socially-charged music to Berry’s Fairgrounds Festival, and while he doesn’t believe music can change the world, he does believe it can start important conversations.
“To make good art the best justification is to be saying something that nobody else is saying,” he said.
Firmly against the UK’s moves to leave the EU, Bragg says he hopes reasonable heads will prevail, not just in government, but in the general population, believing we all need to fight for accountability among our world leaders.
“There’s a long-term struggle going on between those people who you might call traditionalists who say things are the way they are because they've always been this way, and those people who believe things are the way they are because of systemic problems,” he said.
“I think if we make better choices we can get better outcomes, and I’ve always been one of those people.”
Bragg said Donald Trump was one such power who needed to take accountability, especially when it came to media and news.
“It’s very difficult to even put your finger on what’s fact, never mind how you hold a president to account when he talks about news being fake but creates fake news all the time,” he said.
“It’s almost as if he’s trying to avoid any kind of accountability.”
Bragg also speaks about what he calls ‘the war on empathy’ and political correctness during his sets.
Bringing it back to Trump, Bragg believes the president is spreading the message that empathy is not acceptable, as a deliberate strategy to create further political discourse.
“I think there is a lot of white male anger involved with Trump,” he said. “White men are only a minority in America so they are trying to police our culture and they see empathy as a feminine trait and weakness.
“For those of us who make art, particularly songwriters, empathy is our currency and it’s our job to make sure we are putting out that compassionate vibe and not giving into cynicism.”
As an optimist, Bragg said he’s hopeful America can reassert itself as the great nation he once knew it to be.
“Once Trump’s defeated I don’t think there will be anybody else like him because we will see that kind of attitude, that kind of deceit, that kind of bigotry doesn’t win votes anymore,” he said.
“Defeating him may be a watershed moment.”
When Bragg descends on Fairgrounds, he said he’ll be focusing on social issues outside of Canberra, like climate change.
“Australia is in the front line of climate change,” he said.
“I live on the coast [in the UK] and in the past 18 years we’ve lived here the storms are getting stronger and the seasons are getting less different from one another.”
Billy Bragg is one of the headlining acts at the upcoming Fairgrounds Festival at Berry, held on November 30 and December 1.
For more information or tickets, visit www.fairgrounds.com.au.