The first line that really got me was from "Hard Times": "The optimist says at least we have this half empty cup." Personally‚ that kind of said a lot about my life in the past year [laughs]. I think there's that feeling also‚ a broader feeling‚ in America that resonates.
I agree with you. I think a lot of people would give a complicated chuckle about that one. I don't know if I have more to say about it. I remember writing it‚ and the big smile that came across my face when I wrote it down.
I remember talking years ago about how certain lines in your songs will just jump out. Was that one of them?
I knew I was on the right trail.
You mentioned the solo show still being a baby‚ still taking its first steps. How do you think it's evolved?
It's been really fun. I get to see the show evolve even in the stretch of just a single run‚ and I'm curious to see how this next one's going to be. When I'm playing repeatedly‚ I have to find this groove that reveals itself to me‚ and a lot of it is still very mysterious‚ and it's a little frustrating. The more I do it‚ the better they get. But then when I take a break between tours‚ it almost cleanses the palate. This next run that's coming up‚ I don't necessarily have a plan‚ but I'm curious to find out. But the stories‚ the banter just evolves. It's such a natural thing‚ it's really fun. I'm not exactly sure of the right words for it. I listened this summer to bootlegs people sent me‚ and the difference between the tenth day of a tour as opposed to the first few; it's just striking how the stories evolve‚ the segues between the songs. There's something deep inside me that gets really familiar with what I'm up to and comes up with all these things. It's like my subconscious is doing all the work. My conscious brain has ideas‚ but my subconscious is doing all the hard work. Through repetition and doing all these shows‚ I discover these things. My favorite nights and my favorite shows‚ I'm surprising myself right and left‚ and that surprising myself comes with repetition‚ which is strange. You would figure that doing something over and over would make it less surprising. It's really fun just to watch.
When you were describing that‚ it reminded me of a jazz band or any improvisational band.
It's interesting because that's the play between musicians and it's a very similar dynamic‚ but it's just me. It's all the parts of me playing like a jazz band and getting more familiar and comfortable with each other and taking greater chances each night.
That's really cool to hear. We talked before about the storytelling aspect and the way you move between songs.
It's still a really mysterious thing for me‚ but it's probably the most exciting part. I don't know why‚ but it brings it all together. The nights I'm really on and the stories are flying--I wish it wasn't so mysterious to me.
But isn't that kind of the beauty behind it?
Yeah‚ it is sort of the beauty of it‚ but I just never know when it's going to strike. Although I do know that just doing it and doing it and doing it helps.
Yeah‚ like repetition creates more spontaneity.
The last show I did in my hometown‚ it was the last day of a two-week tour‚ and usually shows here feel like more of a vacuum. And that one really felt like I was still on the road‚ even though I'd come home and it was the last show on the tour‚ so I went to the gig even before I came to my house. I was so excited because Staunton [Virginia] had never seen a road show‚ and I knew there was a big difference in how I played‚ and I knew going into that it was going be really fun to play Staunton while I was still in that mindset of touring and how that tour was evolving. It was going to be a cumulative moment being in Staunton. I didn't know what it was going to be or how it was going to be‚ but I knew it was going to be cool‚ and it turned out to be exactly like that. I came into Staunton‚ did this show‚ and all this banter had grown. The songs‚ everything had stepped up a couple notches and found its stride in that tour. The thing that I'm thinking about now is how I knew beforehand that it was gonna be special. I didn't know what it was gonna be or how it was gonna be‚ but sure enough‚ it was exactly what I thought it was gonna be. And it was a side of me Staunton hadn't seen.
So you're home a lot. How does your grandmother feel about the record? Do you feel good giving it to her?
I wasn't nervous giving it to her‚ but there's some sides of myself I'm always afraid of her seeing. I knew this record didn't have any of that. On the other hand‚ I didn't necessarily know if it would be one of her favorites. She really likes the sappier stuff. She likes "Invisible Guy" and "I Can Make You Smile." But I haven't gotten a lot of feedback from her‚ really. I've actually been gone quite a bit this summer.
Yeah‚ you did some touring‚ some [Surprise Me Mr.] Davis shows‚ right?
Touring as much as I have been‚ I'm not writing as much for Grandmom these days as I have in the past. I'm sure it will come again. There was a while there where she was a big part of the audience in my mind when I was writing songs.
That's cool. What is going on with the writing?
Well‚ I'm off on the next batch‚ that's for sure. I've got a pocketful of new songs. It's fun writing now because it's going to be a little while before I get to record again‚ which is a little sad to me. If the world wanted it‚ I'd have a new record ready for them already. But since the world isn't quite ready yet‚ then maybe I can keep expanding on these ideas I'm thinking of‚ and by the time I get to make another record again‚ I'll probably have way too many songs.
Yeah‚ maybe you need to go in and record 30 or 40 songs.
Definitely. Back in the day‚ Johnny Cash and those guys‚ they would put out a couple records a year‚ and that's definitely way more my pace. I wish I had a little bit more luxurious relationship with a studio‚ at least one closer to home. I'd love to always be making records.
Yeah‚ it's a weird time for that.
It is. It's a hard world to sell them in and to know what to do with them. It's a mysterious world like that.