I was lucky enough tonight to be invited by my friend Joe to a showing of a short film on Rosanne Cash and then meet with her afterwards. The film was mostly on her songwriting process (or at least that’s what I focused on) and was followed by a short interview. The audience got to ask a few questions also, always an entertaining mix of personalities who volunteer their hands. I had a burning question but like every Q&A I’ve ever attended, never volunteered mine.
Songwriting has always been something I was naturally drawn to, hated and loved at times in equal measure and never quite felt that I knew what I was doing at any given time. It was reassuring to hear a celebrated artist talk about her struggles with it also. Those long periods of droughts, sudden inspiration, the fear that the last song you wrote would be your last and of course, working with other great musicians. Something that really stood out was the fact that sometimes she’d write a line and her co-writer would ask her “What does that mean?”. She’d respond “I don’t really know”. “Oh, it’s one of those lines…you will.” And in time she would discover it herself.
I remember walking to meet a friend for a few beers one evening in spring and the line “sometimes love is a stray dog that follows you home” appeared out of nowhere. I had no idea what it meant. I tried to fit it into several half-written songs I had at the time but with no success. I eventually wrote a new song around it called “Wherever We Are” and it’s meaning became crystal clear. If you listen to the lyrics you can work in out yourself 😉
“Where is the madness?”, this is a phrase one of Rosanne’s mentors would ask her about a song she would bring him. It was an attempt at removing perfection, both in structure and lyrics. I loved this as perfection is what I always try to achieve even though I know it creates nothing but anxiety. Writing perfect songs is writing bad, or worst still, boring songs. I began thinking of the tracks I have recorded for the new album and how stressed I became analysing a guitar part or vocal here and there. When I step back, I like the songs and I say what I want to say and that is all I set out to do. It will be imperfect because I am, the first record was too.
After the event there was an impressive layout of food and I found out that Irish Poet Paul Muldoon who Joe spoke with also plays in a band. Maybe in the future we can convince him to do a show with us.
Both Rosanne and her manager recognized me from performing with her last year but yet again I couldn’t pluck up the courage to hand her a Supersmall CD, and for the second time came home with a few still in my pocket. She’s such a huge influence on Neko Case, a major influence on Supersmall but I wasn’t quite sure how to say that. Maybe next time, or the time after that.
In other news, with two dates in Nashville I have decided to drive down and make a road trip out of it. It will take two days with a stop over in Roanoke, Virginia. I’ve already noted the attractions and whatnot along the way. Expect lots of photographs and musings from the middle of nowhere. Until then, expect lots of photographs and musing about the next Supersmall record.