Videos by American Songwriter
Written by Thea Hopkins
What inspired you to write “Chickasaw?”
Well, I had gone to an Artie Traum workshop at a music store called The Guitar Emporium, in Lexington, Massachusetts. It’s written in DADGAD tuning and I had never used that one before. I went there and I was really inspired by the tunings – I started fooling around with it and I loved what I came up with. Then I saw the word “Chickasaw,” actually, and I just started to create a story in my mind. That’s the way it developed, and it turned into kind of a love story gone very wrong.
Can you expand on the meaning of the story?
It’s a story about a woman who falls passionately in love with someone, and it doesn’t quite go the way she wanted it to. She finds out he had been involved with somebody else, so she basically loses her mind and kills him. That’s what it’s about. It’s a song about the crime of passion, essentially.
What made you use Chickasaw as the location?
It was really just a name that struck me. After the fact, I looked up that there was a Chickasaw, Georgia, and a Chickasaw, Oklahoma. Also, I’m part Indian, and there’s a Chickasaw Indian tribe, too. I’m not Chickasaw Indian, but it was kind of tied in with that too.
When did you write it?
It came out on my last album, which came out in late 2007. It’s the title track.
How long did it take you to write “Chickasaw?”
Well, it didn’t take that long to write, but I’m very finicky about writing lyrics. What I’ll do is I’ll write, then I’ll rewrite, and then I rewrite, and then I rewrite after that. I just get very obsessive about making sure everything is exactly where I want it to be.
Is that your typical songwriting process – do you usually write the lyrics first?
It is. I’m very particular about where words are going to fall. So I keep writing and writing and rewriting something until it’s exactly where I want it to be. Sometimes, you’ll like something you write the first time around and that’s great. But that doesn’t tend to be my process. My process is to get an idea and then just keep at it until I like everything where it is – where it fits perfectly.
How long have you been writing songs?
About ten years. I’ve been working as a full-time musician for ten years now and writing songs seriously for ten years. It has been basically since 2000 or 2001.
One of your songs was cut by Peter, Paul and Mary. Can you tell us a little about how that happened?
Before my first album came out, I sent this song “Jesus Is On The Wire” to a song contest through Noel Paul Stookey’s [of Peter, Paul and Mary] public domain foundation. It didn’t win anything. But a few months after the contest ended, he contacted me. It was this e-mail out of the blue. He said, “Hi, we love your song. Can we perform it?” I couldn’t believe it, but that’s the way it happened.
Where can people go to hear your music?