The 14 Best Country Songs About Writing

About a million years ago I spent weeks in CU’s Women Poets of the Romantic Period collection, getting paid eight dollars and hour to find and transcribe examples of poetic manifestos. (Don’t ask.) For some reason, I was thinking about it the other day, and thinking about country music. And it occurred to me how many country songs are a kind of poetic manifesto themselves. Or, at least, how many I think are.

So I made this list last night during an insomnia attack. To be honest, it ain’t probably the best 14 (15 now, thanks to Stephen Graham Jones) country songs about writing. But it’s the best that came to mind at 2:30 this morning when I was too wiped out to read or write and too wired to sleep.

Kris Kristofferson — If You Don’t Like Hank Williams

“You’re the only one that you are screwing, when you put down what you don’t understand.”


Johnny Cash — The Folksinger

“All the truths I tried to tell you were as distant to you as the moon.”


Bill Anderson — The Songwriters

“We get to tell all of our secrets in a code no one understands.”


Iris Dement — Living On The Inside

“I been living on the inside too much.”


Billy Joe Shaver — I Don’t Seem To Fit Anywhere

“Nobody quite got the drift of my songs, like me they’re a bit overdone.”


Waylon Jennings — My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys

“Picking up hookers instead of my pen, I let the words of my youth fade away.”


Willie Nelson — Write Your Own Songs

“Just lay on your ass and get richer, or write your own songs.”


Emmylou Harris — Old Five and Dimers Like Me

“I spent a lifetime making up my mind to be more than the measure of what I thought others could see.”


YouTube Direkt

Jamey Johnson — That’s Why I Write Songs

“You see, it ain’t just what I do. It’s who I am.”


Sturgill Simpson — You Can Have The Crown

“They call me King Turd up here on Shit Mountain. If you want it you can have the crown.”


David Allen Coe — You Never Even Called Me By My Name

“I realized that my friend had written the perfect country and western song.”


Guy Clark — Some Days The Song Writes You

“It don’t matter how much it hurts, you got to tell the truth.”


Jamey Johnson, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Hank Cochran, Kris Kristofferson — Living For A Song

“All of us rhyme runners and word hunters have things we’ve been through.”


Charlie Louvin — Ira

“You had a way with writing music from the heart.”


Lacy J Dalton — 16th Avenue (via Stephen Graham Jones)

“Like a miracle some golden words, rolled off of someone’s tongue.”


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Noir Walk

For those who’ve expressed interest: The Denver Noir Walk on the evening of October 24th is on. We’re doing it on the side, though, as a dry run for Lit Fest 2015. The way it should be, right? Unofficial and a little shady? If you’re interested, send me an email  and I’ll have my guy shoot you the particulars.

Also, if you haven’t seen it, I wrote a piece about the dedication to Cry Father over at Elizabeth A. White’s place.

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October

Well, I just realized that I haven’t posted anything much since Cry Father was released. And, not only that, my October is packed with related events, and I should probably tell some people about them, in case anybody wants to show up.

So . . .

October 11: If you’re a bookseller, I’ll be at the MPIBA Fall Discovery Show, so you’ll get to laugh at me trying to mumble-pitch Cry Father in a speed-dating format. I really like the idea, even as I’m hoping I don’t crash and burn.

October 13: I’ll be meeting with some folks in a book club in Stapleton who have taken on Cry Father. Which I’m really looking forward to. Speaking of, if you have a book club in the area, I am housebroken and promise not to eat all your cheese cubes. It had never occurred to me that anybody want me in their house for that kind of thing, but if you do, I’ll be there.

October 15: I’ll be at the Jefferson County Open School in the afternoon. From 12:30-1:00 PM I’ll be helping out in the student writer’s workshop, and then from 1:00-2:00 PM the venue will open up to the entire community and I’ll talk some about noir.

October 20: We’ll be beginning the next session of the 8 Week: Intermediate/Advanced Novel Workshop at the Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop. There’s still a couple of slots left, I think, if anybody wants in.

October 24: This one’s a little tentative, but I think we’ll be taking our first Noir Walk after the Friday 500 at Lighthouse. If you’re interested, the plan as I understand it is to meet at Lighthouse at 7:30. It’ll be hop alley, hard bop jazz, and a whorehouse. You can’t go wrong. (I’ll update to confirm and add details on this one.)

October 25: I’ll be talking Cry Father at Lighthouse for the Writer’s Buzz: The Story of a Book, 5.0. Drinks and snacks start at 6 PM, the rest of it gets underway at 7 PM.

Also, Cry Father’s gotten a lot of really kind book reviews since I posted last. My memory’s no good, so I won’t remember them all, but the Dayton Daily News, Bookreporter, and Book-Alicious Mama have weighed in, among others. There’s also a piece about the locations in Cry Father up at Crimespree Magazine, and the ever-brilliant Amanda Gowin threw some fantastic questions at me the other day. (And if you haven’t yet, get yourself a copy of Ms. Gowin’s Radium Girls. It’s fantastic.)

That’s all I got for now. It’s been a pretty exciting few weeks since Cry Father was released, and it looks like we’re just firing up.

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Quote

Woody Guthrie on writing.

About the only thing I ever learned in school was speed typing. All that stuff in books is second hand, I thought. Writin’s no profession for a man these days. With all these poor folks wandering around the country as homeless as little doggies, what I should do is strop on a couple of six-shooters and blow open the doors of the bank and feed people and give them houses. The only reason I don’t do that is because I ain’t got the guts.

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Cry Father Publication Day

So Cry Father is now out, and should be available all the places you buy books.

Among others, KirkusShelf Awareness, Bookslut and Spinetingler have all said kind things about it. There’s also a nice interview thanks to Court Merrigan over at Electric Literature and another with Keith Rawson at Litreactor. If any of that piques your curiosity, you can find an excerpt here. And I’ll be reading and signing down at Tattered Cover Colfax tomorrow.

That’s all I got. I’m gonna go for a long walk, and when my kids get out of school, take ‘em out for pizza and laser tag by way of celebration.

In the meantime, you should buy it from one of those links on the sidebar. I mean, I’m not gonna beg or anything, but you should. For one thing, if enough people buy it, then maybe they’ll let me publish another.

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The Pre-Publication Jitters

The pre-publication reviews of Cry Father have been good, thank God. Kirkus Reviews and Shelf Awareness, in particular. Which has been a big help when I’m awake nights hoping everybody doesn’t hate it.

I always forget how much sleep I lose when I’m waiting on a book to hit the shelves. I try not to worry about it too much and just keep plugging away at whatever project I’m working on, but there comes a day when you realize you ain’t gonna be getting anything done for the next few weeks. That’s when you give it up and start taking real long walks and spending more time at the firing range.

I’m there.

The thing is, I know what I write isn’t for everybody. Not by a long shot. I actually have a very specific reader in mind, and he dictates more of my creative life than I should admit. He’s a guy I used to work with in a factory about 12 years ago. He was somewhere in his forties, had a couple of kids somewhere who hated his guts, and had just got out of prison a year or so prior.

As far as I could tell the only two interests he had were beer drinking and reading. He read probably twice as much as I did, and he read everything. But he was a vicious critic, and he absolutely no use for most of what was out there. While we were on the assembly line, we’d talk books for hours, him just savaging everything he considered bourgeois, boring or full of shit. Which was, of course, most of the stuff I was reading at the time.

He’s who I try to think of when I get worried.  Whatever anybody says, I think Ray’d like this one. That’s what I tell myself.

Of course, I have no idea if he actually would like it. I haven’t seen him in more than a decade. And, to tell the truth, I’ve spent so much energy rewriting him into my ideal reader and inner critic that God only knows if he’s anything at all like I remember.

But it does help me sleep.

Sort of.

(You can win a copy of Cry Father from the Goodreads giveaway here; you can read an excerpt here.)

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