ACL Music Festival Interviews
Friday, 6:30pm, Cingular stage
John Prine, one of America's premier songwriters, has garnered worldwide acclaim for his ability to be literate, yet folksy, since he began in the late Sixties. Earlier this year he released Fair and Square, his first collection of new material in nine years. Speaking from his home in Nashville, Prine explains that songwriting was difficult in the time between albums.
"The writing came real slow," he recalls. "I'd write two or three, and then it would be nine months or a year before the next batch would come along. Part of that I'm guessing; I mean I didn't realize it was nine years until I finally got the record out. While I was on tour with the last record of new songs, [1995's Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings], I had two sons born 10 months apart. Those were my first children, and that alone would set you back a small amount of time. I was 49 years old at the time. It's the best thing that's ever happened to me. But I had to get some discipline, something that I never had whatsoever."
You'd think that someone who's been writing songs for so long and at such a high level would have a backlog of insight into inspiration and the creative process, but Prine claims otherwise.
"I have no idea where it comes from," he maintains. "I know less about that then I did when I first started writing. You get to thinking that because you've written 50 or 100 songs, you think maybe you know how to do it. But when they're not coming along, you're just as in the dark as you ever were. When they're coming along there's nothing to it. Sometimes it's so easy it's like you're a court stenographer. I think it shows when you have to work too hard on a song. But maybe that's just another way for me to get out of writing."
He adds with a chuckle, "I go, 'This is too hard, let's wait until it gets easier.'"