Who were your favorite authors as a child? As an adult?
I wouldn’t say I had favorite authors as a child. It was more that I was enamored with particular books. One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest, Marathon Man, Three Days of the Condor all had rich characters. I went through my Catcher in the Rye phase like a lot of young people. As an adult I’ve tended to explore the work of an author as a larger world. Jim Harrison has been a revelation to me. Mary Karr as well.
Did you write as a child, either stories or songs?
I’ve been writing songs since I was around 17. I was dabbling mostly and trying to unlock the secret of their complicated construction. I did enjoy writing in school but it never occurred to me until my fifties that writing prose or poetry was available to me. I was obsessed with song for so long that it simply didn’t occur to me until I started having ideas that seemed too intricate and subtle for the form of song.
Which musicians would you say influenced you the most?
Bruce Springsteen was huge for me because he created a world I could relate to. I recognized people I knew in the songs on Darkness on the Edge of Town. Tom Petty is a very underrated songwriter. Later on Lucinda Williams and the economy of language from Guy Clark and Gillian Welch influenced me a great deal. Also Leonard Cohen’s almost impossibly perfect lyrics have shown me how high the bar can be set. The man was a genius.
The concept of an book of short stories to enhance an album is as you did with Out Past The Wires is incredibly exciting. Were these stories written after the songs or were some songs taken from stories you had written?
The stories came from the songs. There were songs that had a lot of subtext to work with and they were written in a narrative fashion that was easy to expand into the short story form. Mostly I expanded on the characters I was most intrigued by. It was largely instinctive.
When did you first start writing?
I think I’ve always been writing. I’m a person who lives inside my own head – possibly too much. So the narrative in my head about what’s going on underneath what we all pretend is happening at any given time is always being written, if not inked. I’ve been writing things down since I was a teenager but hadn’t put anything besides song to any finished piece until my fifties. Late bloomer I suppose.
Do you keep journals?
I have kept sporadic journals for years. It’s not a great fit for me. They tend to be deeply morose and a bit frightening to read back or else they read like a grocery list. Either way they aren’t pleasant to revisit so I don’t do it unless I have a specific reason. I’ve kept a journal on this five week tour as I thought it would be helpful to look back at my psychology as the tour played out.
What was the last great book you read?
I think the last truly great book I read was Annie Proulx’s Barkskins. Stunning.
What's your favorite book that no one else has heard of?
My favorite under the radar book might be Ron Rash’s Burning Bright short story collection or Bluets by Maggie Nelson. To be fair I don’t pay much attention to a book’s public profile so maybe everyone has read them. I would have no idea. Also Donald Ray Pollock’s Knockemstiff is a stunner.
Who's poetry speaks to you most?
Nathan Brown is brilliant. I love his poetry because he uses titles in such a unique fashion. Some of his poems don’t come to fruition until you look back up at the title then it ignites. It’s a beautiful thing. Jim Harrison reading his own poems is a thing of wonder. Bukowski obviously was amazing but I prefer the older less self-conscious Bukowski to the guy who played at being “Bukowski”.
What is your favorite fictional hero or heroine? Your favorite anti-hero or villain?
I’ve always had a soft spot for Randall Patrick McMurphy from Cuckoos Nest. He covers both questions. He’s complicated. There are things in him I don’t like but that iconoclastic streak of “tear it all down before it destroys you” speaks to me somehow. That character got me into a lot of trouble as a kid. They should have taken the book away from me…
You're organizing a literary gathering. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
Capote, Hemingway and Jim Harrison. What a group that would be…
Whom would you want to write your life story?
That’s a very tough question. In some sense there is nobody qualified besides oneself. No one else knows the dysfunctional rail system inside my head like I do. I often wonder what it would be like to read an autobiography where someone really pulls no punches. I think people’s lives are fascinating but rarely do we get down to the dirt of the matter do we? We tell the story as we choose it to be told.
What do you plan to read next?
I’m currently reading Paris Trout by Pete Dexter. Dark stuff indeed. Horror that comes from our waking world is more disturbing than fantasy. It’s a brilliant book but makes your skin crawl.
Do you have any readings or events coming up? Where? When?
We are working on readings for the U.S. but they are all pending. I’m in the middle of a marathon tour to support the new album so we’ll shoe horn some readings in as we go and as effectively as we can. I’m very much looking forward to it.
PHOTO CREDIT – Cover shot of Rod Picott and Literary Chick UK Carrie Bell by Trudi Knight