Tom Mason on Pirates and steering The Blue Buccaneer


Tom, you had a track on your last album Pirate Song so I assume that  the theme was something that you wanted to explore further and that you have an interest in.

I wrote Pirate Song after a few tours of the Virgin Islands with Last Train Home and a band called the Big Happy. I thought  I needed a pirate song, and so I found some glossaries on the internet, including, and wrote a drinking song using all the terminology I could find. 

Not long after I wrote it I was cast in the national tour of the Broadway musical Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash. The sixteen member cast, a mixture of musicians and actors, would gather in hotel rooms for late night, post-show jam sessions, and Pirate Song was always a big hit. My cast-mates convinced me to start writing a musical, and I began devouring all the books and source material I could find. As I wrote more and more songs for the project I realized how much fun they’d be to play with a band.

These are all original songs that you have written for the album. Was  it difficult to write a set of songs around the one topic and what did  you use as a reference source for the music?

It’s such a rich era that I even wrote some songs that were left off the album. It may seem like a stretch, but looking at the ever-widening gap between rich and poor in modern America, the project has given me somewhere to focus my sense of frustration. The pirates may have been a cruel and ruthless lot, but they rose out of dire economic circumstances with almost no hope of advancement.

As far as the sources go, I have to confess my retention skills are not great when I’m reading, (the only thing I remember from a year of taking Chinese is my translation of James Brown’s I Feel Good!) but certain passages in the books I read spark ideas for songs. Sheriff’s Dance was inspired by The Pirate Hunter, a book about Captain Kidd, and The Empire of Blue Water, about Henry Morgan with great descriptions of the cruelty of the press gangs, inspired In The Service of the King. Blackbeard has provided me with a lot, especially in Decked Out Like the Devil; his modus operandi was all showbiz, scaring his victims by weaving lit fuses into his hair, to the point that they would surrender with little or no fight. I now have a shelf filled with books about pirates.

Musically there were a number of major influences on the CD. On a trip to Australia in 2005 I saw and befriended The Bushwackers, the legendary 40 year old Aussie band that often draws comparisons to Fairport Convention and the Pogues. I was blown away by how much fun they were, and loved their songs about the bushranger Ned Kelly and about Australian history. Then while on the road with Ring of Fire I started learning Irish fiddle tunes on the mandolin, songs I’d first played in an old-time band in Chicago years ago. Those songs and the Bushwackers material colored some of The Blue Buccaneer. I also didn’t shy away from afro-cuban rhythms (a good part of the history of pirates took place in the Caribbean, after all.) I’m naturally more of a blues player, so when the material veered into that territory I played up what the “talk like a pirate” creators call my “Pirattitude”.

The album comes across as a lot of fun to have made, was that the case?

Without a doubt! There was Paul Griffith on drums, Lorne Rall on bass and myself and we went into Thomm Jutz’s studio, he’s been guitarist for Mary Gauthier, Nancy Griffith and others. I’d given them rough demos and charts and I gave them free reign. I was thrilled at how much variety they gave to the grooves. (At some point I’ve learned not to try to control sessions, and that anything the musicians I work with come up with is  far better than I could have dreamed of.) After laying the basics I took the tracks home and started inviting my friends over to play. It all took place during the Christmas/New Year’s vacation, typically a very quiet time around Nashville,but there was a Jolly Roger flying just off the Cumberland River where a rowdy bunch of rovers were singing and playing. 

I love it when musicians step out of their usual realm and play a style outside of what they’re known for. I had Peter Hyrka, Nashville’s Stephane Grappelli, playing Irish fiddle lines before his one-take nailing of My Little Pearl, and much of the back-up vocals were done by Phil Lee, Eric Brace, and Peter Cooper, Americana artists I play guitar for frequently. If it hadn’t been recorded over the holidays I would have had even more denizens of East Nashville coming by. My whole approach to the band is, much like the pirate ships themselves, to recruit on the spot.

You work both as a solo artist performing your own work and a sideman for others and have played with Phil Lee for a long time. Do you get a different degree of satisfaction from each role?

I do. When I’m performing my own material the greatest challenge is to get the mind to stop, much like an actor, because self-consciousness is the enemy of good performances. I don’t want to stop doing either because they feed each other. It’s easy to be a sideman when I believe in the work and the showmanship, which is the case with Phil. I also generally do my own set with Phil, and Eric Brace of Last Train Home has me do some songs every show, so I’m reaching people I may not reach on my own. I’m  also able to see the perspective of both sidemen and band leaders, which eliminates a lot of frustration.

Having done some acting you seem well able to bring some sense of theatre to your performance. Would you like to explore the link  between music and theatre further?

Very much so. I try to bring theatricality to all my shows, and I think that’s a very important aspect these days. With the proliferation of youtube and instant downloads, I think live performance is our major currency, and feel more akin to traveling vaudevillians than the rock bands I grew up with. I’m also going to finish the pirate musical, and the touring I do with The Blue Buccaneers gives me a chance to do more research. 

You live in Nashville and often play in Austin but how is it for a  professional musician outside those particular pockets of musical interest?

It’s especially great to tour to some of the smaller cities, where we often get a good response because they’re hungrier for music. I actually haven’t been booking many shows in Nashville the past few years, and am more apt to grab my friends, jump in the van, and go play in another town. I love Nashville because the level of musicianship and songwriting is so high, but other scenes have us beat as far as daring and originality go.

Have you any ambition to do another themed album or will you just let new songs dictate the direction of the music? 

I do want to release an album of my Nashville songs, songs that I’ve written and co-written over my years here that are more firmly entrenched in the Americana and country genres. I’ve also always intended to put out an all electric record in the style of Tom Verlaine and Television, but I think that one will be put off forever!  At the moment I’m still writing more songs for the musical. 

Although you have been associated with and play roots music the scope of what you do and play is much wider do you put any restrictions on the music you make?

I don’t put any restrictions on my music, and my favorite music is when different styles come together. I can understand the fervor of purists and revivalists, but I’d rather hear something I’d never heard before, something with a little mystery. I used to hang art in museums, and a painter friend told me he never painted representational work because there was no need with photography, and I like that attitude. I place myself in the Americana field out of some ideal that I think Americana should represent, a melting pot of influences.

Have been a full-time musician/actor for some time how difficult is it for you to make a living these days?

Damn near impossible! As they say, it’s either snack or famine. Something usually trickles in just in the nick of time, though. The carrot on my stick is the dreadful jobs I’ve done in the past, ever reminding me to keep working! 

As musician who have been your lasting influences?

There are so many but I can point out some characteristics that have influenced me. The Band created a nostalgia for a time that never quite was, which drew me in. Dylan and Waits transported me, and I liked that. As a musician I started out playing the blues. I had a piano teacher who figured out that I would practice more if she taught me boogie woogie. A lot of the artists whose writing I liked were into the Harry Smith Anthology, and when I was a child my family would sing folk songs. 

You have played in Europe, how do you find the different audiences  tend to respond to your music as there is a sense that the songs on The Blue Buccaneer would be probably be appreciated over here? 

I’d love to tour with the Blue Buccaneers in Europe, and would especially like to recruit players over there to do shows with us. I’m working on coming over in the summer of 2012 if not sooner.  It’s such a joy to play with new people, and I never shy away from it. Paul Griffith, Lorne Rall, and I did a tour of the Virgin Islands last month and were joined by a pair of seventy year old percussionists who took the groove to a whole new level.  I hope to get some Irish and Scottish musicians to play these tunes when I’m over there, sort of my version of the Rolling Stones jamming with Muddy Waters.

Interview by Stephen Rapid, photograph by Ronnie Norton


Dave Gleason Interview 


Dave Gleason is based in California and with his band Wasted Days has released the fine albums Turn and Fade (2010), Just Fall To Pieces (2007), Midnight, California (2004) and Wasted Days (2002).
He is a singer/songwriter, a producer and an admired guitarist. Dave Alvin siad of him “Dave Gleason is one of my favorite guitarists. His playing is wise and lyrical but he’s also a serious gunslinger. If Dave Gleason walks into the room, I set my guitar down.” He is a player who is continuing the great tradition of California country. Lonesome Highway has taken the opportunity to ask him a few questions:
At what point growing up did you connect with classic country and decide that this was the music for you and who were you’re primary influences then?
When I was a young boy (6-7 years old), my Father played lead guitar in honky-tonk country bands in Northen California. At that time (the mid 1970’s), there was still a thriving country & western live music scene in California-though by the late 1980’s this was pretty much entirely gone. Anyway, the record collection around the house consisted of Buck Owens/ Merle Haggard/ Rodney Crowell/ Emmylou Harris ... basically albums with James Burton, Albert Lee, Don Rich and Roy Nichols playing their Telecaster guitars - which is the true California Country sound in my opinion. The sound of that music immediately resonated with me, and it always has. I also heard alot of Roy Orbison/ Elvis Presley/ Creedence Clearwater ... things like that. Though I did not start pursueing a career in this style of music until I was in my 20’s.


You have been writing the bulk of the songs, mostly about relationships that have failed, are you unlucky in love or does the inspiration come from observation?
Inspiration for my songs do not (entirely) come from personal experience-luckily! I have always enjoyed writing from the perspective of heartache and bar-room situations- and I certainly have had enough experience with both to feel qualified to write about it.
Do you think traditional country/honky tonk is going to survive when the genre is being pushed between outlaw country/punk, southern style rockism and outright pop country for radio?
 I think there will always be people playing traditional country music, and I think there will always be an audience for it, but it really has gone underground. You have to really look for it - or really want to look for it. Texas seems to be the only place - at least in the U.S., that traditional country music was and still is very much alive and well and mainly supported.
How difficult is it to survive as a working musician in today’s environment?
Today’s environment for a musician is very difficult. There are so many people out playing/singing and putting out records, and fewer and fewer venues to play. I have had to be very aggresive and very creative to be able to consistantly find venues and towns to stay active in - as I have no help in booking or management. It is very difficult to keep up with this, as well as the creative process. What I have done for years is play lead guitar for other artists as well as keep my solo career going.
You have played guitar with Johnny Dilks, how does your role there differ from playing under your own name?
Johnny Dilks is a great friend of mine. We have played alot of music together. I really enjoy being the frontman/singer-songwriter alot and I love to do solo/acoustic shows - the whole thing. But I also love to play lead guitar, so I really enjoy letting someone else run the show and just get to stand off to the side and PLAY and maybe sing some harmonies. Also, I can reach an entirely different audience-who may not ever come to see me play or have maybe never heard of me. I played lead guitar with Mike Stinson for quite a while as well-after Tony Gilkyson left the fold.
You play, produce, sing and write. Do you have a preference for any of these roles?
I enjoy all aspects very much - I would love to get into producing a little more. It would be alot of fun to work with other artists, see what I can add or bring out of other artists. I really enjoy the songwriting  too, though I am sitting on at least 200 plus songs that are ready to go, which I really want to get out there - so I have slowed down on the writing lately! I’ve got bags of lyrics, tapes and tapes laying around.
On your covers, especially on Just Fall To Pieces you are all wearing Manuel jackets. How important is the look to you?
Dressing the part, or just dressing up to go entertain and play is something I take very seriously and just plain enjoy. I think an audience likes to see it, they like to see an artist put some effort into it (look at The Fabulous Superlatives!). That is a good point and something I really see a lack of these days - cool western wear is not that hard to find.
Who of your contemporaries to you admire?
Well let’s see, off the top of My head - Marty Stuart & Kenny Vaughn, I always like to hear what The Derailers are up to. I can’t leave out Jim Lauderdale, who I think is the best we’ve got these days and he is one heck of a cool guy. Mike Stinson is a great friend, and I love his albums. I have always dug Lucinda Williams too - since the mid 1980’s I have been paying close attention to her. I think Dave Alvin just gets better and better - I love his work.
Has technology affect you in any way and are your audience download savvy or do they want the physical product?
 I don’t really know ... I have always done well selling the CD’s at live shows and through distribution - though I have done well with downloads too. Seems like people still like to buy something they hold in their hand. I can understand that and I have never downloaded any music in my life. I also have thousands of LP’s/ 45’s/ 78’s and some, but not many CD’s. I am very glad to see the re-emergence in the LP format over the last few years - as you can probably imagine!
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now? 
In 10 years? Well I sure hope that I am around doing what I do. Putting out records, have some cool people to play with, have some cool people to play to. 
Interview by Steve Rapid.

Tift Merritt Interview

 Tift has been a regular visitor to these shores as either a solo artist or with her band. Her most recent performance was a number of her own gigs as well as opening for Mary Chapin Carpenter. Tift hopes to return early in 2011.

Given the fact that your career path means spending long periods away from home and family and having to deal with a lot of non-musical factors have you ever regretted your career choice?
I've never regretted my career choice because I never really felt like I had much of a choice. I've tried to stop and walk away and the first thing I do is write songs. Music and being a writer have always been what made order of my life. What I've learned, more than anything, is that everyone's choices and everyone's job has ups and downs, rewards and consequences.

You often have to travel on your own or with another player for some gigs. Do you find that gives you time for reflection that can be used as inspiration for song writing or do you find it a lonely pursuit?
Like anything, it really depends. While I love to be alone, being alone in a strange city or motel room around strangers can be hard. I usually don't have time to really write on the road, as the best in you is given away during the shows. I love to go to museums on tour, and I did have a chance to write quite a bit on a recent tour opening for Mary Chapin Carpenter as we were on a bus and I had a dressing room to myself all day. Generally, though, touring comes down to being alive in the music for the hour or so that you are onstage.  

You've released both live and studio album, how do you compare the experience. Is one more nerve wracking that the other?
Sitting in a studio and biting your nails over every detail is much more difficult that performing purely in one single moment. Though taking the time to labor over a record is rewarding, the immediacy of music is always what one is after. I've been thinking about making a record in an old theater for the very reason of keeping the intensity of performance as present as possible. 
You've spoken about the time you moved to Paris on your own to begin writing the material for what became Another Country, what special impetus did that situation bring to the writing process?
Freedom. That was a very innocent and rare and pure period of time where I lived very simply. I was free from the constraints of what I knew, the culture I was accustomed to, anyone I knew, and most importantly, the language I was accustomed to. I enjpyed how intimate and human basic communication can - from ordering a coffee or asking directions and depending on someone's eyes to understand. The writing on that record is so plain for that reason, and I am proud of that.

You have brought your music to many fans in the U.S. and Europe do you think there is much of a difference between the two audiences?
I find that European audiences are so attentive and loyal. I am lucky to have experienced that in the US as well, but you are much more likely to find people fraternizing at the bar in the US.

Having worked with  a number of major labels and seeing how they work and the demands they make on an artist do you see your future there or possibly with an independent?
I'm not sure what shape the music business will hold for me, but I would say that people who believe in what you do are the most crucial ingredient, and beyond that, hard and fast rules are hard to find these days. I think it is very exciting that people can put records out on their own these days. I was on a major before the music industry really took a sharp left turn, so what I saw may not apply anymore. I don't like to compromise, and I don't consider myself an entertainer for entertainment's sake. I make what I make, and I imagine my decisions will fall where I find support for that.

What's the most important thing to look for in a label?
That is a pretty good question these days. What is really important is to find someone who is passionate about what you do, willing to protect it, and has some muscle to follow through. If you are asked to change your name, show your cleavage, fire your band and write a hit, you should probably run.

You are, obviously, passionate about your music do you see that changing for any reason in the future?
I would surely hope not. The music business is hard, for sure, but I don't think music is really about the music business. I am usually passionate about whatever I do, from making soup to watching old french films. I always want to be learning, and I figure that if that hasn't changed yet, I'm probably out of luck.  

What motivates you to write the songs you do and how much of yourself do you put into them?
Something I care about or something that touches me is always where a song begins. I put an enormous amount of myself into writing a song - both in heart and in energy. But a song that is worth its salt usually takes on a life of its own and stands on its own legs by the time it is finished.  Whether it is some sort of magic you can't explain, or something the lyric demands, a good song usually crosses a distance from being purely a personal statement to something that makes its own way without me in the end.
Do you write in forms other than songs and when did you start songwriting? 
I started writing songs and stories when I was a teenager. I always wanted to be a writer. I love writing prose and there is always a stack of vignettes that accompany a good batch of songs but I usually don't have the time to go back and take them from ramblings to something polished and finished. For awhile, I really thought that writing short stories was where I belonged, but over the years, I have really come to love the potency of story telling in just a few sentences which is a song.

What have been your highs and lows so far?
That is a really hard question to answer in a few sentences. I have had some opportunities as a musician that I only dreamed about - being nominated for a Grammy, singing with Emmylou Harris, writing in Paris - and sharing those victories with my family and friends who have believed in me is something that I will keep forever. But the highs and lows that come along in anyone's life are terribly personal and usually somehow tied to each other. The lows earn their way to the highs and the highs give way to the lows, and the details aren't that interesting to anyone but me, but the lessons they elicit make their way into my songs. 
After the mid-term elections and what seems to be a loss of ground for Democrats, do you feel worried about what's happening in the U.S.? I know you met and played for President Obama and would have been a supporter.
I was very honored to do some small part for Obama's campaign, but I certainly worry about what is happening in the US. Politics don't make sense to me.  I wrote a song called
Do Something Good about it.  I just don't understand how decisions are continually made that just seem immoral and hurtful are continually justified on the basis of money and the interests of a few. To me, if one has power, one should use it to do good, not consolidate more power. I guess that is why I am a folk singer.

Are their places you haven't yet played that you would love to visit?
I would really, really love to spend more time in Italy, Spain and Portugal. I really love the Mediterranean countries.
Finally, do you ever see your self make another out and out country record like the Two Dollar Pistols one you did at the start of your career?
You never know what might come about. I love pure, spare storytelling and the rawness of early country music. My work usually is centers itself in songwriting, and at this point, I try to write in a way that honors the tradition of roots music while at the same time tries to push forward with a voice that is my own.




Darrell Scott Interview

With a long career that has seen him travel the roads of the US and Europe playing his music solo or as a member of a number of varied combos during which time he has released 7 albums under his own name. The latest of which is a double album Crooked Road. He has also recorded with and is touring with Robert Plant’s Band Of Joy. 


Can you tell us something about the genesis of Crooked Road your new double album which has been described as a reflection on your personal journey?

It's very specifically about being a guy and my relationship with women. I first got married at 20 and also I turned 50 while making the record and it was something about that coming of age that made me want to do something significant, what felt like a personal significance. I'm not necessarily industry orientated. I mean who puts out a double record these days. Especially in these iPod times of downloading one track. The other part of it was I wanted to play and sing everything on it. That goes back to when I was 16 and I got a four track reel-to-reel. I spent nights and night and nights, days, weeks months just throwing things on different tracks. I'd play bass on one track, the sign on another.


So it was a combination of that 50 year old guy going back to an idea I had when I was 15 when I wanted to play and sing everything. It's not like I want to do that the rest of my life but It's something I wanted to do.


When your recording on your own do you have a set template that you work to?

What I do is, well I wanted to have a click (a guide rhythm track) but I never did. The engineer didn't have one and neither did I but I still wanted to record so I didn't bother going around looking for one. So what I did was to start with the principle instruments and the vocal. So if it was a piano vocal that's what I did. If it was a banjo vocal I did that and if it was a guitar I started with that. I figured if I got that and it was right in it's essence, not so much in its production, and got the song across I thought that was a good place to start. So I added to that and if anything took away from that essence I knew it wasn't the right overdub or not the right instrument. That was my criteria. 


Was that a lengthy process?

You know, I had thought that it would be, but the truth is it was the quickest album turnaround I've ever had. Which seems ridiculous for a double album and something that I played and sang everything on. The only reasoning was it was important that I got the record done so whenever I was home from the road I would schedule with the engineer that I had four days home and I'd spend three of them in the studio. I was really diligent. There's something about turning 50 that spurred me on. It's something - it's not everything. It's just a number but I'm still alive and I wanted to keep going and the songs are still passing through me and I do play all these instruments ... so go sue me if you want to. It's what I do.


Had you accumulated songs over a period of time for the project?

I kinda make records based on themes. So some of these songs I've had for eight or nine years and I love them as songs but they never fitted with the theme of the album I was working on. So there songs about relationships there since I was 20 years old. So I realized that I has these songs that I had floating with that subject. In another way it was chronological starting from that first marriage at 20 where I had a song or two. So then in the end I narrowed it down to songs related to three major relationships from that start. Then I divided them by instrumentals that I included on the record. I write instrumentals by just noodling on the guitar or dobro or something. That can turn then into a song sometimes and I'll add lyrics. That became the way of dividing the album into chapters or the next relationship or something. Before I knew it I had enough material that wouldn't fit on to a single disc. So I had to make the decision to trim it down onto one CD or do I find a mid point and divide it into two. Which is what I did. 


Was that a decision that was in anyway effected by the way some people now receive music?

I sell my records through gigs and at Amazon and through the website and believe it or not there are actually some stores that have it in the US and in Europe. You through them in a suitcase or in the back of the rental car and see if anybody wants to buy them. 


Is there a lot of difference between doing it on your own and paying with a group like The Band Of Joy?

No, it's all music to me. Playing with Buddy and Patty and Robert is great. The singing is fantastic and they take great care of us of course. We walk in and everything is set up and when we walk away the take everything down, so it's all posh compared to what I usually do but what I usually do is actually pretty easy too. I walk in with an acoustic guitar and if they have a piano, great, I'll play that. I just see it all as music and the truth is I love doing my own stuff and I find it really refreshing to do my own thing I wouldn't want to lay back and just be doing all the Robert stuff. 


Will you be playing with The Band Of Joy beyond this immediate tour?

Yes, were back in Europe in a little while to do Italy, France some TV and stuff, Jools Holland as well. In January we'll be doing some regular dates in the States which will carry on through Spring.


Your songwriting has brought you some high profile covers how do you get the songs out there, is it through a publisher or from your recordings?

It tends to be from my own albums, which has always been to me the reason that there should be our own albums as writers because though my songs do get pitched in the regular publishing way but if you consider that the Dixie Chicks, whoever - fill in the blank name, are making a record how many pitches will they get per day? It would blow your brain. So when you one of dozens to hundreds of pitches you don't really stand a chance but if the artist or producer, or someone in the camp is a fan of my music then it bubbles up from there. A way better presentation, so to speak. When I look at the songs of mine that have been covered there's absolutely a pattern that they were on my records first. So I'm led to believe that that's where they are hearing them rather than through the giant pitch machine.


In some cases songwriters will use a demo singer who may use a vocal style similar to that of the artists they're pitching the song to. Have you ever tried that?

I always sing my own demos, but I'd try anything, however my publisher will always say "you sell this better than anyone". I'm not the usual cut anyway. So either the artist wants to say what this song is saying or they don't. It's that simple. There's no middle ground you want to say what my songs are saying as an artist or you don't. I don't mind that, to me that's perfect. 


You made an album with your Dad Wayne a while back. Do you have any plans to follow it up?

Yeah, I have another whole album in the can. I need to get off my butt and put it out. When I did that first record I had made enough recordings for two. I'd figured out some songs that would make a good album and released that and there's enough for another good one that I just need to do. He wants it done too. He got enough of a taste of whatever he got from the first one. There was no great shakes in sales but it's out in the ether now. He's a guy who was a labourer, who worked all his life. He's dreamed of making records and having his songs out there but so do a lot of other workers. But the gigs I got him on, and I only do one or two a year, are one's I picked on purpose where I knew they were going to like him as opposed to dragging him around all over the planet. So he got enough of a taste so that he wants that next record out.

Do you have a favourite place that you love to play yourself?

You know really it's anyplace where people are listening. In some places like North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia for some reason I've noticed that areas around mountains are good and I don't know why. There must be some anthropological reason for it. The same with the Rocky Mountains. Maybe the people are a touch closer to the earth. Maybe then they like more earthy kind of stuff. There people seem to know the songs and they want the new record. 


Do you play these gigs as a solo artist for the most part?

It's almost always solo. Sometimes a festival

will want a three or four piece band. Sometimes it's a bluegrass festival so they'll want it leaning towards that. But to me, I love it all, so there's no giant leap from playing with Robert to playing solo. That was that and this is this. 

I've wanted to come back to Ireland for a long time. I travelled here with Tim O'Brien and we'd come over to Ireland once or twice a year. I guess I haven't been back since I played in Belfast a year and a half ago. I love it over here. But sometimes it's just a money thing. A case in point is I'm here on Robert Plant's flight. So I'm just able to extend it and do some of my own shows. I thought that maybe I could do Dublin while I was here.


How did you get to play with Robert, was that through Buddy?

Yes, through Buddy. Basically it started as a two week recording session with no promise of anything. It may not have gone the whole two weeks if it didn't work out. It may not have worked in the first two days. I didn't have any giant notion. First I knew it was Buddy which is always good. Then it was with Robert - so that's a good way to start. 

Robert is one of the biggest music lovers I've ever known. He knows steel guitar styles. He will talk about this player and that player and he knows their strengths and what their thing was. He knows old mountain songs as well as all the rock and blues stuff as well as rockabilly. He's like an encyclopedia. 

Ronnie: Who have you played with over the years who stand out for you as a defining moment?

I started playing when I was thirteen in a family band. When I left the family band that would probably be one. It was like one door closing and another one opening. Moving to Boston, Massachusetts was another. Moving to Nashville was another. Another would have been working with Guy Clark on three or four records because of the great writer that he is. He's respected and he's the real deal. I don't have any giant strategy I walk through any door that seems like it's open. It's been fairly organic. 


When I was 17/18 I played in a house band so on a Friday and a Saturday night we'd have guests that could range from people like Roy Clark to Dorsey Burnette. So you had to back them up so there were a bunch of names from that time. Guys who hadn't had a record out in 30 years but still had an audience. So I was doing that at that age. But there was a point where I thought I'm either going to keep doing this or try something else and basically I quit music for about 5 years and went to school in Boston. I was tired of music as I had know it. I'd thought "if this is all there is too it well I might quit".


Did the mechanics of the music business put you off?

Oh yeah, but the music must proceed and it did. If I don't do it and put out my songs who will? Either we're going to do it or were not as the songs are passing through. You have to get off your ass and take them out there to a little club or where ever. Otherwise those songs go to the grave and what's the point. People like a new Dylan or Springsteen have to do it in the way that they can. They don't have the industry on their side so they have to do it by the means available to them. A case in point for me would be Loudon Wainwright, he's as good as anybody but if were waiting for home to fill an arena like a Springsteen we'll never see him so we have to make sure we go to him wherever he plays.