There's songs that get finished in 15 minutes and are never edited. I have a song I wrote called "What the Night Brings" and if you look at the original piece of paper that it was written on‚ there's one line crossed out and replaced with something else and that's it. I wrote it in about 15 minutes‚ it just came. Then there's another song that I'm getting ready to show the guys on this trip and I have -- I thought I finished 3 or 4 years ago‚ and have been editing ever since. I've been going "Oh‚ maybe that line‚ maybe I should switch this‚ maybe I should put in a bridge" and I put in a bridge and I'm like‚ "I don't like that." So‚ no‚ I write about incredibly different things now. I'm writing tunes about getting out of this crazy relationship‚ and writing songs about being in a different head space‚ and stopping ridiculous habits [laughs] that aren't good for me. And writing from that positive place‚ writing about that kind of change. For me‚ it's been a real positive kind of healer. You know‚ to go through all this stuff and to go through all these changes and give up certain things and lose certain things but then gain so much‚ you know? It's crazy‚ this one song in particular we've been playing that the audience has been really kind of liking called "Shake Me Up‚" I wrote it with something completely different in mind to what it means to me now. And for a while I was fearful that I wouldn't be able to lose the original meaning of the song so that I could actually perform the tune without wanting to throw up. But then‚ as I've played it‚ I've realized‚ well‚ a song could mean a million different things. There's a tune of mine called "Half Moon Rising‚" I think of who I wrote that for‚ and what I think of now when I sing that‚ 13 years after writing it‚ you know? It's one of my favorite things to do.
Sometimes a song just reaches up and grabs you and you got to finish it right then. I love the iPhone because it has a little notes section. I've got more notes in that little note section than I can imagine‚ because tunes come‚ you know?
We did a record years ago with Tim O'Brien (Town By Town)‚ and he said an amazing thing‚ and I don't know if it's the same for him now‚ but I know he said it then. He said‚ "Yeah‚ I just try to write something every day. Whether it's a sentence‚ whether it's a phrase‚ whether it's a whole song‚ whether it's a chorus." I thought it was kind of a cool idea‚ so I pay more attention now when somebody might say something cool‚ or I might hear a turn of phrase while I'm watching TV or talking to a friend or reading something and go‚ "Oh‚ that's cool right there" and then write it down and see what it turns into. It could turn into a deleted file on your freakin' phone or it could turn into the next big number that the fans flip out over‚ you know? So‚ yeah‚ it's a fun‚ cool process.
And then also‚ spending a lot of time with like‚ other great songwriters too‚ people I really admire‚ Todd Snider‚ and just great songwriters I really admire.
I love Todd. Speaking of which -- we'll come back to Todd -- you wrote the song "Ragdoll‚" did you write that with Danny Barnes?
Yeah‚ Danny and I wrote that. That was a tune that sat forever. I had the chorus‚ and I had the verse‚ I thought I had it‚ I pretty much thought I had it‚ and then‚ Danny was at the house‚ I said "Hey man‚ I want to show you this tune. I just don't know what it's missing." And I sang the chorus‚ and all I had was "Hell‚ honey when you come back 'round‚ you better say your prayers‚ you better kiss the ground." And then there was nothing after that‚ there was a space. And he just filled in those spaces. It was amazing. He looked at the paper and said it like it was fucking matter of fact. He's like‚ "I'm a ragdoll peepin' in your window shade." And I looked at him and I went‚ [exhales] "Uhh‚ whoa." [laughing] You know? And then I sang the next verse‚ "Hell‚ honey better come back 'round‚ better say your prayers‚ better kiss the ground‚" and he's like‚ "Jenny… Jenny I'm leaving on the first train‚ smoking." And he said it like it was already written there. And that was it. We played the song a couple times‚ we wrapped it up‚ we made some coffee‚ we ate some fruit‚ we watched cartoons. Successful songwriting day. We hung out in pajamas the rest of the day‚ relaxing‚ you know?
It's a livin'.
Danny's one of my favorite writers. He writes from such a genuine‚ amazing place. The way he doesn't censor himself is incredible. He's one of those people that says it without saying it‚ as well as he says it by just throwing it right in your face and saying it as black and white as possible. That tune "Bone" of his just fucking shakes my whole world up when I listen to that. He's just incredible. I can't believe I even know somebody like that let alone consider him a brother to me and family and blood. He's a powerful individual.
Now back to Todd Snider. Have you written any new songs with Todd lately?
You know Todd and I‚ we've had a bitch of a time trying to get together. He's just so busy and then we're so busy and the times where I have downtime‚ I was going off and seeing Phish play. It was like‚ "Hey can you come out this weekend?" I was like‚ "Ohh‚ I'm going on tour." He's like‚ "Oh‚ where you guys playing?" "No" I said‚ "I'm going on TOUR… I'm going to see Phish. I'm going on TOUR. I'm gonna watch another band work and I'm gonna dance like a maniac." But we're right on the edge of figuring out a nice little chunk of time. I think he's coming out to Colorado sometime in late July or in August. And then I'm going do the same. We're going to try to do two sessions. Because when Todd and I have written‚ it was very rapid fire. We sat down‚ it came very naturally‚ and it was… it was it -- that was it‚ it was done. I can't wait‚ I miss him. I haven't seen him in a while‚ I definitely miss him. He's been here for me when I've been going through a lot of crap and I can't wait to see him again and give him a huge hug and sit down and write some damn songs. We're going to be hanging out at String Summit in a couple of weeks‚ and we've got a couple of half ideas that we were working on‚ that every time I see him or talk to him‚ he'll be like‚ "Remember that chorus?" Yeah‚ of course I remember that chorus. So‚ I'm hoping we can grab an afternoon and have a couple of cold soda pops and adult sodas‚ and sit down and maybe bring one or two of these suckers home.
He's like a big brother to me‚ he really is. I don't know how to put it. He's such a strong person to me in every way. I fucking love him. I'd run through walls for that guy. And it's been so strange because he's busy and I'm busy‚ we've been busy‚ ships passing in the night. It was killing me‚ we had a couple of festivals and shows where like we were in the city and he was in the city the next night and we were gone. And we were at the festival one day and he was at the festival the next day and it was like‚ aw shit‚ damn it‚ we keep missing each other. That's why I'm excited to get together for another session because I have a feeling it's going to kind of… a lot of coffee and just the right amount of margaritas and it will all flow.
That's how magic happens.
That's how magic happens. The first time we ever wrote together‚ that was the magic.
Coffee and margaritas?
Yeah‚ coffee and margaritas and hotel nachos.
What was the gem that came out of that?
That was actually two tunes‚ "East Nashville Easter" and a tune called "Nothin' But Nothin." It was Easter and I was in Nashville and I played two shows with him at the Belcourt Theater‚ and then I hung around on Easter Sunday at the Hilton right there on the main drag‚ right on Music Row. We sat there and hung out and watched all the huge families‚ these massive families all celebrating Easter in white suits and everybody was so clean and pure. And Todd and I had these huge decorative margarita glasses as we're staring at these people‚ drinking them‚ and it was… a pretty fluid event. It was pretty funny‚ yeah it turned into a little Hunter S. Thompson game we were playing with the desk and demanding things like typewriters and baby Burmese Pythons. It was pretty fun. We were up in this suite -- we were writing in this big suite on the top floor and they said "anything you need" and you know‚ you tell two guys with a pretty active imagination and a big decorative margarita glass "anything you need" and we're gonna ask for it. It was fun and then we had a really fluid writing session and "Nothin' But Nothin'" was actually Dave Hicks‚ his tour manager‚ and better half on the road and Elvis is what we call him because he sounds‚ looks‚ and acts exactly like Elvis Presley -- helped us. He helped us with the chorus and a bit of the verse. So it was a really fun writing day for us. When your first writing session puts out 2 tunes that have become fan staples‚ it's pretty good.
Absolutely. "East Nashville Easter" is such a rockin' dark song‚ I love it.
I love playing that tune. I'll never tell what that's about‚ but let's just say that I have a very strong connection with the content of that song. [laughs] Very strong connections for a couple of years and I can still tap into that connection‚ whether it exists or not. I cannot confirm or deny.
As soon as I hear that feedback groaning‚ I know it's going to be awesome.
That's a tune that's a love/hate tune. People are like "Oh I LOVE that song" or people are like‚ "Oh I HATE that fucking song‚ they play that song all the time." I'm like‚ "actually‚ no we don't‚ we may play it once a week." I love it because it allows me to let out a little inner freaker out‚ with some cool feedback‚ and making a lot of noise‚ and making things shake and wobble.