I take the small roads when I can. I hit the small rooms with a couple old guitars and a 5-watt Skylark amp. Sometimes with a band, and then I stand up. Mostly it’s just me and my friend Billy Conway, the best drummer I ever heard. Then we both sit down and I stomp my foot. I own a Smith Corona typewriter and a Western Bell rotary phone, and I use them both. I wore a pearl snap cowboy shirt in my Kindergarten school picture. Irony isn’t my thing. I try to write the kind of songs Johnny Cash would cover if he was still around.
I grew up in Wisconsin. My Dad wore a tie to work and played a knock-off Gibson with a chunk of the headstock missing where he’d backed over it with the car. Mom sang along. I knew all my Grandparents well into my thirties, and both my Great Grandmas. Winter Sundays were for church or ice-fishing, and summers we hauled an old travel trailer up to the north woods. School was a drag, and I mostly drew pictures. When I was 11 I bought a cassette copy of Little Richard’s Greatest Hits. At 17 I learned to play all the songs on John Prine’s 1971 debut in my room with the door locked and subway posters of British New Wave bands looking morbidly on. At 19 I stole a copy of Townes Van Zandt’s ‘Live & Obscure’. At 24 I made a record and start traveling around the country. I have two older brothers. They don’t sing but they both fish.
I live out in New England in a little town with a river through the middle. I can’t get home without crossing good water and it fairly makes up for living east, which isn’t in my blood. We have a chicken coop and a little barn and an old truck that runs. I like to listen to records real loud when I do the dishes, and I do most of the dishes.