It does a musician good to hang around other musicians. Somehow, we're all connected under a cosmic law or something. There's a bond among us, is what I mean. We all feel a lotta the same stuff. We're all trying to figure it out. Some of us have other jobs and some of us just get by with a little help from whoever is nice enough to lend us a hand till we're on our way again. Either way, we're all struggling to organically grow and move through this life. Waiting on the next release, the next song, the next YouTube video to show people what we're making. It doesn't matter how well produced it is, a good song is a good song, to me, anyway. Give me a self-recorded take where there's a screeching chair and some missed chords and I feel like I'm at home. Maybe that's why I like music––wherever I am, it makes me feel at home.
Some songs just do that. You say "Yeah, man I've been there." They just get you like that. A single line, a word. It all means so much. If you like one lyric or line of a song it could make the whole song for you. And then you write a whole song cause you have that one line. That's fuckin' music, man. Always something hidden away. Always something to learn from.
And some people just inspire songs. Every time I listen to Townes Van Zandt, I get that feeling of needing to write something. And he's not the top-played on Spotify or top of the charts, but damn if there's a better singer songwriter I ain't never heard 'em. His lyrics are poetry, clean n' simple. Some people like Robert Earl Keen had a background in English. Townes just lived amongst words. I wouldn't be surprised if he died so quick just 'cause he put pieces of his life into them songs. You can play a Townes song anywhere these days and someone's gonna know it. Not cause it's climbin' the ranks or anything, but because it's always gonna be the top. I wonder if we'll have anything come close. I doubt it.
It's Monday morning in New England. I'm still in pajamas drinking Kombucha. I'm writing all this down, whether it's in my thoughts or my writing or my songs. It's all somewhere. In this book I'm reading, 'Telling Stories, Writing Songs,' Kimmie Rhode, whose son Gabe we met in Austin, says that songs are timeless. No matter where you wrote it in your life, when you sing it, you come right back to that moment. I was looking for those words for a long time, but I never understood them. Now I see it.
With that comes so much. Writing about a past relationship or something. Or a family member who's passed on. That shit'll put you in the thick of it. And you'll keep writing. Adding more. Taking away. Sometimes it's all there already and there's nothing more. Then it's done. And you can sit there and play it a thousand times reliving those moments, those memories. It's hard to keep living in the present when you're constantly reliving the past. Playing the original songs of John Prine, Todd Snider, Waylon Jennings, Townes, Guy Clark––it puts you there.
People talk about time travel all the time, but we already found it––songs. Listening, playing, singing along. The reason songs are so important to history, perhaps among the most important, is because they create commonalities amongst humans, highlight important events. They seek to show our collective consciousness. When I play a cover song like Prine's 'Hello In There,' I'm living through the eyes of the narrator––through a marriage scattered beyond the back door screen, a son lost in combat in the Vietnam War. Songs are the ability to travel through time via emotion. There's a reason they make people cry. There's a reason stories and music make people cry. Because the listener or viewer is traveling through the story. Trying to stay present, while fading into the past.
Songwriters might never leave a place physically, but emotionally they move not only themselves, but others. Hopping trains, chasing the dream to be heard, to be heard and understood. That's the peak. There's nothing more humbling and touching than when someone compliments a song you wrote. If they understand the lyrics in their own way, if you helped them live through a moment, grow, and smile for even a second, made them feel, that's worth more than the top of the charts (commonly overproduced music industry distractions). I'll choose touching hearts and souls and living my truth over pretty much anything. That's just being a songwriter. That what we're meant to do. Inspire and be inspired. Pass it along. Wait for it to come back around.