March/April 2016 Lyric Contest Spotlight: Winner Kevin Dudley

Photo courtesy of Kevin Dudley
Photo courtesy of Kevin Dudley

“War Stories”

Written by Kevin Dudley

Interview by Caine O’Rear

What inspired this song?

Over the past few years I’ve volunteered at Washington D.C. VA Medical Center and had the privilege of performing for soldiers coming back from the war zone. “War Stories” is constructed from bits of conversations I’ve had with those soldiers as well as the parents of a soldier killed in action and a family member’s husband who served two tours in Iraq as a sniper. Their experiences stuck with me. The intense dialogue just kept building up, rolling around in my head … it affected me deeply to the point I’d wake up thinking about it in the middle of the night, so I’d reach for the legal pad by the bed.

Did you find it difficult to write overtly political songs?

I just wanted to expose some hard truths, hard fought and hard to come by. Hopefully “War Stories” transcends politics. Once politics enters into it you’re telling folks what to think, that one side is better than the other. I’d rather lay a story out there and let folks draw their own conclusions.

Why did you decide to take up songwriting? 

I think it’s the other way ‘round — it took me up. Some muse condemned me to write. I suppose it’s my way to sort this messy, whacky world out.

How do you find the songwriting scene in the D.C. area? Is there a community of songwriters you draw support from?

Absolutely. There’s a band of us that help each other out with recording, backing each other up in the studio or on stage, offering honesty about a verse or phrase. One gal I collaborate with baked the most awesome cherry pie for helping her with some songs. Money’s good but pie is love.

Is there a line or couplet from “War Stories” that you’re particularly proud of? 

The opening line is totally autobiographical, straight out of my experience. The last line gives me chills when I sing it: “He never felt the bullet, she will for the rest of her life.”

What is one thing you’ve learned about songwriting along the way that you wish you’d known when you got started? 

Write from the heart. Write the truth, from the get go. Anything else is disingenuous and will never truly engage an audience.

Who are your songwriting heroes?

Lightnin’ Hopkins, Muddy Waters and Mississippi John Hurt are never-ending sources of inspiration for me. Guy Clark, Kevin Welch, James McMurtry, Ray Wylie Hubbard are on my iPod playlist consistently, as well as the heroines — Eliza Gilkyson, Shawn Colvin, Mary Gauthier and Lucinda Williams. If I died tomorrow I’d want those last four to sing “Wayfaring Stranger” at my funeral.

Click here to read the lyrics of Kevin Dudley’s “War Stories”