How’d you get started writing poetry, music…?
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The first things I ever wrote, that was serious, were song lyrics, and I just gravitated towards them. When I was about twelve, I started writing… I got crazy about that; got all kinds of different stuff from Sarah McLachlan to Marilyn Manson. I just was drawn to the words. I would read the words in the liner notes and then I just naturally started writing. I was a huge fan of Jim Morrison, and he was a poet, so I read all of his poetry. I would basically copy somebody’s lyrical style: Thurston Moore has a really strange lyrical style compared to someone like Leonard Cohen, who writes in a more straight-up meter.
So I’d try all these different things. Then in high school, I had one class that was the basics of writing, and the one thing I took from that class was “use images to explain what you’re trying to say.” The guy was an imagist poet or something, and so I’d just incorporate that into what I’d do.
When writing songs, did you start with a more musical idea, or did you start with a poem and convert that to a song?
I’d always have the melody in my head—pretty much from the get-go. The lyrics would be written in a way that if you read them, you’d get the idea of the melody. But then, to me, poetry is free verse, and this stuff couldn’t be translated into a song. And then the second part is definitely more lyrical things. And then the last part is just odds and ends.
Are any of these poems in your book, Fascists, Fanatics & Escapists, songs as well?
Yeah, there’s one that’s a song in here. I thought it would be cool, but it turns out it was kind of a dumb idea. This one, “A Song for the Road,” I have music for that. It’s a really long song.
What do you think is going to happen with Rodney Crowell later?
Man, I don’t know. I haven’t even thought about what’s going to happen. I mean, I’ve thought about it, but I haven’t planned it.
Are you familiar with his music?
Yeah, I’m familiar. He’s awesome. It’s weird because he’s a really good lyricist—he’s an awesome lyricist. I looked at his stuff, and I’ve been listening to a lot more of it lately. When he was younger, it seems like he would co-write a lot more. On his newer stuff, there’s no reason for it. He has great lyrics, and he writes great music. So it’s weird. I don’t know what to expect.
I guess he came up with Steve Earle and other young talents back in the ‘70s, and they’d all hang out together in Nashville. They all had publishing deals. He had a lot of big hits in the ‘70s outlaw country scene. Do you have some things that you’re going to show Rodney, or are you going to start from scratch?
I’ve got a bunch of lyrics that are ready that don’t have music, so I figured I would just have all kinds of different stuff. I’m definitely going to give him a copy of my book, whether that spawns anything or not. I have songs that I’ve completely finished, but I just figured I would get those together. Then I have songs with just the lyrics, and I have lyrical ideas—a couple of things that we could expand on together. But I wanted to be prepared on all kinds of different levels. I have no idea how it’s going to go. If he was not Rodney Crowell, it would be a lot easier. This guy is obviously up top and is an extremely talented person.
So you’re from Colorado?
Yeah, originally. I’ve lived all over, and then I went back to Colorado for I don’t know how long. Grand Junction is in western Colorado, right next to Utah. It’s the biggest town between Denver and Salt Lake.
How did you find out about the lyric contest?
We had a little bookstore with magazines and it carries American Songwriter. I came across it and decided I had lyrics I thought I could enter. I really wanted the guitar because my guitar blew. It was some off-brand guitar. I didn’t realize how hard it was to play until I got the guitar you guys sent me. I can write stuff on the Martin that I never thought I’d never be able to.