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And we could still talk because they have those tables with a hole for your face. "It hasn't, I reply, but I did once do an interview, fully-clothed, in someone's bed."Really? By the time we go our separate ways he has written down Wolf Hall, Augustus Leopold Egg, Are You Being Served? It's all I can do to keep up with him."The museum," he says, in a moment of seriousness, "is where I come to remember and to remind myself why I chose art as my religion. This is truly the only thing that I care about."In the late Nineties, Banhart was studying at the San Francisco Art Institute on a scholarship, but he dropped out so he could concentrate on making music.
He has recorded with Beck and Wu-Tang's GZA, founded a record label, performed at New York's Carnegie Hall and, briefly, dated the actress Natalie Portman (she appears in the video to his 2008 single "Carmensita")."Since then," he explains, "I've managed to have this parallel career in both worlds.I'll be playing a concert and someone will say, 'I hear you draw.If you wear a dress when you're eight years old it's kind of taboo."Banhart had another epiphany, aged 18, when he was in Paris and "completely homeless.I didn't have a dime." He wrote to the folk singer Vashti Bunyan and, in an attempt to gauge his own musical potential, sent her some songs.
The Texas-born, Venezuela-raised Banhart is part of a loosely-connected generation of singers – among them Sufjan Stevens, the harpist Joanna Newsom and torch singer Antony Hegarty – that have made unexpected inroads into the mainstream.