I'm a very lucky man. I get to do the thing I want most in life, write songs and sing them for people, and ride bikes. I love my family. I love my home. I get to work with people I've admired my whole life. It's a pretty good life.
Writin songs is like a mystery. The most difficult thing to do is have a good idea. If you have a decent idea, the songs are the easy part. Actually having something to say is the hard part. If you get an idea for a song, then it pulls you along. There are just some ideas that you get that are really hard to edit out; it's hard to stop thinking about some bad ideas. So you just finish it and you end up putting it on a record.
When I first was trying to play the clubs around Houston to start playing my own songs, songwriters like Eric Taylor and Vince Bell and Townes Van Zandt and Don Sanders were just really encouraging to me and would let me sit in with them during their sets and introduce me to the person that owned and booked the club.
I enjoyed hearing people do their own songs. I became attracted to singer-songwriters. I became interested in them as people; was curious about what they wanted to say.
Somehow you can tell the difference when a song is written just to get on the radio and when what someone does is their whole life. That comes through in Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Willie Nelson. There is no separating their life from their music.
If you forget the words to your own song, you can always claim artistic license. Forget the words to the national anthem and you're screwed.
I'm not the kind of writer that can wake up and say, "Okay, I'm gonna write a song today," and have that song be the kind I would want to record. The songs of mine that I end up liking are songs that come from real experience. They're like chapter titles in my life.
Singing your own songs is all about individual expression
I've been lucky to be able to make the records I've wanted to make. The record company has never pressured me to cut certain songs.
I don't ever try to anticipate my audience. I just write the songs I want to write, and hope people like 'em.
Beyond hoping that someone will like one of my songs, I don't think about how a song will be received. I just hope that, when somebody hears one of my songs, they'll want to hear it again.
I was going on this desert adventure with some friends and we were like, "How amazing would it be to just drag all these mirrors out there?" A lot of times I do things as an impulse and find out my inspirations afterward. Even with songs and lyrics, it can take me years to find out what I was actually trying to do.
I want to do a stripped-down album. That style is actually where my heart is - storytelling and just letting the voice and the lyrics talk for themselves. I still want to write the perfect song and sing it in the most honest, undressed way. But I feel like I have to gather more experiences and more layers in my voice. I have to live more to be able to tell this tale. So I'm saving my folk record. I have a feeling nobody will understand it.
I don't think Neil Young has a beautiful voice but it's something that grabs you and the songs are so good.
That man's best works should be such bungling imitations of Nature's infinite perfection, matters not much; but that he should make himself an imitation, this is the fact which Nature moans over, and deprecates beseechingly. Be spontaneous, be truthful, be free, and thus be individuals! is the song she sings through warbling birds, and whispering pines, and roaring waves, and screeching winds.
Politics are always involved, even in my love songs.
My idea of making time for myself is writing songs. I never stop beating myself up about trying to be productive, so I don't really like to do a lot of things other than write in my journal and write songs.
I think I was six when I discovered the song "White Wedding" by Billy Idol, and that was the first time I thought I had discovered something on my own. It's the first song I remember hearing and liking without anyone telling me to like it.
See, I'm not the type of writer that has 400 songs in a suitcase someplace on the shelf. I'm sort of a rise-to-the-occasion-type of writer, so when I know I'm going to record, I get in the mood to write.
I'd like to be remembered as a premier singer of songs, not just a popular act of a given period.
We weren't raised Muslim - we were born Muslim. I didn't go to a Muslim school, but it was just the theme song. It was ambient.
Just take me home where the mood is mellowAnd the roses are grownM&M's are yellowAnd the light bulbs around my mirror don't flickerEverybody gets a nice autograph pictureOne for you and one for your sisterWho had to work tonight but is an avid listenerEvery song's a favorite songAnd mics don't feed back.
There are still songs that I'm writing. I like to write. I like to take a long time to do my songs, not even the actual writing process, but conceptualizing, getting into the songs. That's why I stopped doing mixtapes.
We have to make the physical music a little more valuable instead of just having a download link and a bunch of songs you downloaded from some torrent site. People try to make the music value-less, and I don't think we're going to stop that train, but the one thing that they can't devalue are things that are in the outside world.
Da Pak was a group out of Chicago. It was a put-together group. We actually met for the first time at this showcase. They were like 'Yo, you should do a song together.' So we did. It just so happened that the name of the song was 'Wolf Pak.' They said, 'Y'all should be a group called Da Pak, and here's a record deal.'
Someone gave me Roman Candle from Cavity Search when it came out. I was just starting to do A&R in the record business, and I remember being in my Volvo 240 in Silverlake, which is every bit the cliche it sounds like, sitting in front of my house playing the songs over and over again. It was the punkest record I had heard in so long.
I'm still writing songs but leaving them a lot more open and not trying to control every nuance of it.
For one, the nonverbal aspects of music are the most important to me. Then, whatever sort of emotion the music carries, intrinsically, dictates the images that unfold, lyrically. Topical writers usually have the topic before they begin writing the song, but, for me, it's the other way around.
When you write songs, you try to tap into something that isn't straightforward in your head. Whatever you're feeling most strongly about usually comes out in your writing.
It's just like an idea, like a chorus, and then we just jam on it - it happens in loads of different ways. The best songs I find always come from the subconscious, like when you don't think. Not to be pretentious about it, but usually songs just blurt out rather than thinking about it. I never write lyrics and then do a song, I find that really hard - that's like a real skill.
Sometimes you're writing a song and you have an image whilst writing a song. I don't think you ever base a songwriting process around a video, but when you're writing a song sometimes it'll be a very visual song.
I felt alive when I read a script and acted out a scene, or sang a song. It was my dream. I'm just very lucky that I'm still doing it and able to earn a living from it.
I will always really work hard to write as much as I can, but I also love sitting back and waiting on those big Nashville songwriters to send me some great songs, too.
There's always gonna be guys who are just wonderful singers and probably shouldn't be writing songs. Then there's always gonna be guys who move up the ranks writing. I don't know what's healthier or what's the best thing - probably whatever yields the best songs.
I'll always have songs with a farm connotation on my albums. It's in the fabric of my music, and I plan to keep it that way.
Nothing is more rewarding than to take a song, create it out of thin air and then watch it affect people.
Early in my songwriting career, when I was learning a lot about writing songs, I'd force myself to sit down until I came up with something.
'Dirt Road Diaries,' in my mind, is a perfect country guy song. It speaks to the hard-working guy, and I'm excited for the fans to hear that one.
When you look into the eyes of your people out there that came to see you, that's when it's like, 'Yep, this is what it's all about.' This is why we don't sleep, and this is why we write songs and try to be the best. This moment right here onstage.
I think 'Country Girl' is one song that can veer into country or hip-hop or rap. You can listen to it and enjoy the humor and the fun in it.