By Steve Weddle
So Chris F. Holm listed his “5 Favorite Musical Artists of Author Chris F. Holm” and, inasmuch as the list follows the title, I assume he is correct. I have no reason to doubt that these are Mr. Holm’s favorites. Perhaps he had originally thought REO Speedwagon or Air Supply could creep in around the top of the list, but wanted to maintain his street cred. I have no way of knowing this for certain, though. This was a list for a writer, Chris F. Holm. (PS Buy this book.)
Music for writers is different. Perhaps music for swimmers is different still. Music for neurosurgeons. If either one of my current psychiatrists were to tell me that his favorite musical artist happened to be, say, Nine Inch Nails, that would cause me some concern.
I wrote many stories this past year or two after getting some Drive-By Truckers stuck in my head. Frankie Bill sent along a CD with “Decoration Day” on it, and I misheard the line “The state let him go, but I guess it was best cause nobody needs all us Lawsons alive.” To my hear, the line ended “nobody needs all this loss in his life.” That sent me off writing a story about a man who tries to fake bravery to help his son.
I imagine that happens to most writers. You hear a line, rightly or wrongly, and it pushes into you, earworm.
While we’re hanging out in the “D” section of the library, I should mention The Decemberists, Dawes, Damien Rice, Dog’s Eye View, Dead Milkmen, and probably many others.
From “That Western Skyline” by Dawes, via John Hornor Jacobs:
So I followed her here to Birmingham, where the soil is so much richer
And though my aching pride might guide my hand, she did not ask for me to come.
So I wait for her all through the day, as if I wait for her surrender.
And every time I get her to look my way, she says I'm not where I belong.
But I watch her father preach on Sundays.
I know the hymnals all by heart.
But oh Lou, no my dreams did not come true.
No, they only came apart.
The best songs, the best songs for writers, are those that not only tell a story, but make you want to tell a story. Tom Waits. Bob Dylan. Afghan Whigs. The Avett Brothers. Dinosaur Jr. Pixies. Elvis Costello. Neko Case. Hub. Steve Earle. Emmylou Harris.
Maybe when I’m doing the actual writing, I’d rather have Gould’s Goldberg in my ear. (Not the more recent version, of course. Blech.)
But when I’m letting my brain mush slosh around a bit, ready to sponge up bits here and there, I’d rather listen to some Iron & Wine, Gillian Welch, or Justin Townes Earle.
The best songs, for writers, end up being writing prompts, with a little banjo on the side.
It seems like the unraveling has started too soon,
Now I'm sleeping in hallways and I'm drinking perfume.