Home' Rhythms Magazine : November-December 2018 Contents >> “I didn’t plan on waking up today,” he sings.
“ I had heart, wheels and wings / Now I don’t
have any of these things/
Come and get me Jesus, I don’t know / Come
and get me ‘cause I can go.
I lost my brother I lost my friend / Only one
way this thing ends /
Cheap and dirty in a bad motel / Wondering
what it was you used to do so well.
I had words, chords and strings/Now I don’t
have any of these things.”
“ I kind of wrote it in honour of all the men and
women who slog the broad highway trying to
make a living, singing, and playing,” explains
Hiatt, who might have also been writing about
himself. “ I think of the people who are lifers
that do it - play small places - and some that
make just enough to get to the next small place,
as I did for many years. I ’m one of those people
and my daughter’s the same way. I would keep doing it whether I was
playing at the Station Inn which holds a hundred people or if I made
it to Bridgestone Arena, which holds 18,000. It wouldn’t matter to me.
There’s plenty of us like that.
“This was an unvarnished look at life on the road - and it’s hard. I ’m
not complaining. It’s the best job in the world, and I love it. But I think
people have this sort of fantastical notion of a glamorous lifestyle of the
travelling you know, rock and roller or whatever you wanna call us and
it’s just not true. I mean, there’s a reason people do drugs and drink and
die of overdoses out on the road. It’s because it’s very tough life and it’s
not for the meek of heart.”
‘Over the Hill’ is another personal reflection in which Hiatt mentions
that ‘there are still a few peaks and valley’s I ain’t seen.’
“That’s correct, man,” he says, “and if you want me, I ’m over the hill,
come on. Come and get it.
There is also a great video for the song, made by some of the staff at
Hiatt’s management company.
“All they did was follow me around and point me to, walk here, and go
over there, and the next thing you know, we had a video. It’s so much
fun now because it’s like the Wild West again in terms of what you can
do. I mean we made this video for, I don’t know, a thousand dollars;
whereas, I ’ve shot videos for fifty grand back in the day - to no avail.
Nobody played ‘em. So, it’s kind of fun. It’s like we’re back to the days
when you’re just trying stuff and it’s all sort of the wild west.
“ Poor Imitation of God,” captures another side of Hiatt’s personality.
“Oh God,” he laughs. “That’s just my Catholic roots showing. You’re
made in the image of God. We’re supposed to live up to that the best
we can. Not that we’ ll ever get perfection but poor imitation of God.
You gotta get out the whip and pray. Oh God. Yeah. Probably to a fault
but it keeps me sane.”
‘All The Way To The River’, is one of those songs that I refer to as a
‘classic’ Hiatt song. In its loping, relaxed rhythm it also addresses the
main character’s relationship with dirty Nashville’.
“ I like that groove,” agrees Hiatt, “and I like that song. It’s sort of
ambiguous whether she actually jumps in the river and that’s the end or
if she just leaves town - and I kind of like that too.
“ It’s just the idea that it takes cowardice and courage too, to leave this
town before you’re through. So many people come here to make it and
there’s a lot of heartbreak in Nashville.”
This prompts me to ask if Hiatt starts songs
like these just strumming his guitar and
picking out a rhythm.
“ Yeah,” he agrees, “and after I had that I
come up with those first couple lines, ‘up late
with the hollowed out eyes, trying every last
trouble on for size’ against those chords. I
had that melody and it just went from there.
“ I get a melody and a chord progression and
then some lines will just pop out. I sang that
and ‘all the way to the river, I didn’t know I
was gonna repeat that. Then it was like, ‘Oh,
where’s that going? Then it was like, ‘Okay,
I’ve got enough lines to try and tell a little
story. What’s happening here?”
I ask Hiatt if he has given his daughter Lilly,
a budding talent, any advice about song
writing or her career. Hiatt introduced her to
the audience at the Ryman Auditorium during
the Awards ceremony where she performed a song.
“ It was thrilling and nerve-wracking and all of the above. It was pretty
special,” recalls Hiatt. “ I’ve played it a few times. She had never been on
the planks and I told her, be prepared for a special, special feeling that
you’re not going get in any other venue.
“ I don’t think I’ve given her much, other than that I’m a shoulder to cry
on,” he laughs, “that’s for sure – because touring’s hard and she realises
that. She knows about being true to herself and I told her it takes time
to figure out who you are as an artist. So don’t get frustrated. She’s
learning who she is. She definitely is.”
Was it natural that she would become a musician? Are all three of his
children musicians as well?
“ No, but all three of them love music,” he says. “They’re all music
junkies, as is my wife. And you know, Lilly just, she was in her
bedroom for a couple years according to my youngest, Georgia, and
unbeknownst to us, she was learning how to play guitar.
I had given her one, but I didn’t think much of it. And we didn’t know
until we were at the talent show for her high school, and she got up and
played two songs. And it kind of blew our minds. We didn’t realize she
could do that. And then she just went on from there.”
“ I thought Trinity Lane was just a fantastic collection of songs, and a
really good record. So, she’s really got it, I think.
One of my observations of being in Nashville this time around is not
only the standard of musicianship which is obvious everywhere but
also even musicians who are just ‘okay’ seem to have three or four great
“ It’s always been a songwriting garden of Eden,” agrees Hiatt who
moved to the town when he was 18. “That’s what this town’s about.
“ Well, you know what’s happened to Nashville? It’s no longer just the
centre of country music, it’s the centre of music in this country. It’s
bigger than LA, it’s bigger than New York City. This is the centre of
“So, it’s the kids coming here are making all kinds of music and
so it’s just that’s why it’s exploded, I think, as a town. I think the
opportunities are enormous, whether you come to be a musician,
whether you come to be a songwriter, trying to get songs cut by
other people, or you come as an artist. I think you’re more apt to get
someplace if you come as a pack, as the whole deal, singer/songwriter.”
The Eclipse Sessions is available now through New West.
Eclipsing The Past
Elvis Costello and The Imposters have made a sensational new album
that ranks alongside the best work this singularly great artist has ever produced.
‘Look Now’ is an outstanding 12-strong addition to his song catalogue.
Most of the titles were written solely by Elvis Costello although,
‘Don’t Look Now’ and ‘Photographs Can Lie’ were co-written
with Burt Bacharach,who makes a guest appearance on the album
& THE IMPOSTERS
& THE IMPOSTERS
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