Videos by American Songwriter
When it comes to e-mail interviews, 23-year old Winston Yellen of Nashville’s Night Beds is a man of few words. But that’s okay; his powerful music does the talking for him. “Like a reincarnated Jeff Buckley singing in some astral cathedral,” is how we’ve previously described his sound. Yellen recorded his debut album Country Sleep in the cabin that Johnny Cash once lived in, in nearby Hendersonville. We asked the rising indie folk star about his songwriting heroes, the first song he ever wrote and more.
There are so few good band names left. How did you come up with yours?
It came from the lyrics from the song Night Beds.
You’re known for your powerful voice. Have you had any formal training?
Tell us a bit about your travels and what inspired them, moving from Colorado to Nashville, and then living on the road in your car.
Initially went to Nashville to study, ended up dropping out of college and went through a break-up and worked my way back towards Colorado and felt the need to be aimless, so got in my car and traveled around.
Did you write any songs in Johnny Cash’s old house? Tell us about them.
I wrote most of the songs from Country Sleep in the Hendersonville cabin. I lived there and it was great. The landscape and historical significance of the estate had an indirect effect on the songwriting.
Who are your songwriting heroes?
Mark Kozelek and Ryland Bouchard.
What was the first song you ever wrote? Tell us about it.
A shitty one, not sure what it was called. I wrote this in my mom’s basement in Colorado.
What’s a song on your album you’re particularly proud of and why?
TENN, because it took the longest – about 4-5 months and I spent the most time working on it.
What’s a lyric or verse from the album you’re a fan of?
I really like the song “Faithful Heights” because it’s an outline/introduction of the entire album Country Sleep.
Is it easier, or harder to write songs, the more you write?
It’s always hard. I don’t think it ever gets easier.
The most annoying thing about songwriting is….
I don’t find it annoying at all. I really enjoy writing.
What’s a song of yours that’s really touched people?
I don’t really know what people’s reactions are. It’s hard to say.
If you could co-write with anyone living or dead, who would it be?
I would co-write with R Kelly or Frank Ocean, it’s a toss up.
Who do you consider an underrated songwriter?
What do you consider to be the perfect song (written by somebody else), and why?
Buckeye Jim by Burl Ives.
When you’re playing just for fun and no one’s around to listen, what sort of songs do you play?
New age jazz.
What’s your typical approach to songwriting?
I usually have a beer and make myself sit down for an hour.