Dwight Yoakam, “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere”

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

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Whoever she was, she apparently did quite a number on ol’ Dwight.

In “A Thousand Miles from Nowhere,” Dwight Yoakam is a deeply wounded, empty man who has been abused and discarded by someone he may never get over in one of the bleakest heartbreak songs ever. Pretty much everyone experiences the pain of love at some time in their lives, but seldom has the agony of having had one’s soul gutted been communicated in a song the way Yoakam does in this one.

Yoakam opens with the chorus and uses it to set up the verses, though there’s little difference melodically between the two. But this song is about heartbreak, not melody or hum-ability. Being crushed isn’t supposed to sound pretty anyway (except for Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” of course). When Yoakam sings “I’m a thousand miles from nowhere / Time don’t matter to me / I’m a thousand miles from nowhere / And there’s no place I wanna be,” using that trademark break in his voice as more than the gimmick it sometimes almost is, he’s coming from an emotionally barren desert. The sections where he simply sings “Oh I, oh I, oh I, I, I, I” before and after the first guitar solo might be construed as a device to fill space with meaningless utterances, in the tradition of other acts far more famous than he. But I interpret these lines as the beaten-down moaning of a man who just doesn’t know what to say, who has lost the will to carry on until the healing takes hold. If it ever does.

It doesn’t matter that the song, from Yoakam’s This Time album, is nearly 20 years old; it’s as timeless as any heartbreak song, and as strong as anything in Yoakam’s catalog. It’s also a great example of how this type of song doesn’t have to be slow and dirge-y, doesn’t have to be weepy or have strings. At about 110 bpm it moves pretty quickly, and Pete Anderson’s masterful long guitar solo that takes the song out is startlingly simpatico with the lyric. It’s a song worth listening to again and again, whether you’ve recently had your heart ground into the dust or not. Thankfully we now have streaming music services and satellite radio, because they don’t play ‘em like this on commercial country radio anymore.

The song peaked at #2 on the country charts in the U.S. and at #3 in Canada. Yoakam himself directed the music video for the song, and it was also used for the closing credits of the 1993 movie Red Rock West, Yoakam’s motion picture debut. For a different take on the song, a guitar/vocal version can be heard on Yoakam’s 2000 album dwightyoakamacoustic.net.

“A Thousand Miles from Nowhere”

I’m a thousand miles from nowhere
Time don’t matter to me
‘Cause I’m a thousand miles from nowhere
And there’s no place I wanna be

I got heartaches in my pocket
I got echoes in my head
And all that I keep hearing
Are the cruel, cruel things that you said

I’m a thousand miles from nowhere
Time don’t matter to me
‘Cause I’m a thousand miles from nowhere
And there’s no place I wanna be

I’ve got bruises on my memories
I’ve got tear stains on my hands
And in the mirror there’s a vision
Of what used to be a man

I’m a thousand miles from nowhere
Time don’t matter to me
I’m a thousand miles from nowhere
And there’s no place I wanna be

I’m a thousand miles from nowhere
Time don’t matter to me
I’m a thousand miles from nowhere
And there’s no place I wanna be

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