There are definitely some nights where the show is over, and you're on the bus or a hotel room, and it's sort of a shock to go from being in the atmosphere of a club or a theater and be at your own show to being by yourself in a hotel room.
The more you read, the better you are at writing, no matter what you're writing. A lot of songwriters miss that and don't see the connection there, and I've always felt like you're more able to communicate if you have a bigger toolbox to work with.
I don't write a whole lot about one person that exists in reality; it's usually characteristics of different people that I combine into a character. I tend to think through and try and make characters behave in a natural way. I follow the character and think about what they would do, what decisions they would make.
People love to be listened to and represented, and they love it when they feel like you have some of the same problems that they do. Everybody deals with things like romantic difficulties in relationships and death and cancer and abuse.
I'll take a certain concern of my own or a situation and try to frame it around a fictional story, but sometimes just straight-up autobiographical songs work well, and sometimes a story is better. I like stories. I like to hear them. I don't think there are enough of them in songs anymore.
I think the live show is a different kind of catharsis. It's an event. It's supposed to be entertaining. To keep myself entertained, I like to play a rock n' roll show. I still kind of feel like I'm a rock n' roll musician anyway.
My dad, he worries a bit, usually with good reason. There were quite a few years there where he was probably trying to resign himself to fact that I wouldn't live too much longer, just because of the way I was living.
I don't think I'd be happy if I were satisfied. I enjoy challenge, and I wouldn't say that I'm an ambitious person career-wise or financially, really. I would like to travel more comfortably, but that's really about all I need.
I know it's financially lucrative to go out on my own, but I don't like it. It's really hard work, just the performance aspect. I like people who look like they've been together for too long and sound like they've been together too long. I like rock n' roll bands.
Sometimes a song becomes rhetoric, but you have to really empathise. You also have to leave room for both sides of the argument: even if you're not telling the other side, you have to put that part in parentheses and make sure it's understood.
When I wrote those first songs for the Truckers, songs like 'Outfit' and 'Decoration Day,' those were strong songs, very strong songs. But had I been in the position of writing an entire album at that point in time, I don't think the whole album would have been of that kind of quality.
A lot of the world turns into checklists for me when I'm on the road. Like, OK, this person's alive, this person's fed, this person's good. Soundcheck is done. Everything becomes a checklist except for the actual show.
My wife and I both grew up with parents who were very young. Her mom was, I think, 17 or 18 when she was born; my mom was 15 when I was born. So, as we got older, we started thinking a lot about that - about the time that those people missed because we came along when we did and because they devoted so much of their lives to taking care of us.
Any narrative, whether it's fiction or not, you have to approach it as though it really happened to you. I think that's the only way to get inside the characters and make the narrative work. It's a storytelling tradition, and I think to come off as genuine then you have to really approach it that way.
When I hear somebody like Hayes Carll write a song that's touching and poignant and sad and funny all at the same time, it motivates me to step my game up and try to figure out a way to get more different emotions into one line or one song.
I don't start a song with an idea of what ingredients are going to go into a song. It's not like a recipe. I will normally either talk from personal experience or I'll make a character and then try to allow that character to behave the way he or she naturally would.
When I was writing 'Southeastern,' I'd just recently gotten sober. For me, that was a major turning point in my life. It changed things I did on a day-to-day basis. My whole routine was upended. It took me some time to get used to that and figure out how do I keep myself entertained.
I think I'm writing for an intelligent stranger - you know, in my mind I can't remember who coined that phrase first. I don't want to write anything that makes me cringe, first of all. I cringe a lot - mostly when I hear popular music.
When I stopped drinking... there were so many things I had to face that I didn't even realize were part of my makeup before. When you do that and have any changes that severe, you lose a lot of things, both good and bad.