How did a library ever make a difference in your life and (or) your community?
When I was around 8 or 9, my parents marriage was slowly falling apart. I had my mom drop me off at the library when it opened on Saturdays, and I stayed there till it closed. It was how I spent my Saturdays for quite a while. It was my safe place, my place of peace.I read my way through nearly all the books in the children’s section, and began looking at books in the regular library. The library felt like home to me, more than home felt like home. Books are a treasure to me, they are life rafts, they are undiscovered worlds. And libraries are their homes. I love libraries.
Is there a librarian in your life – for better or for worse?
No, I almost always found my way on my own in the library. The few times I did ask for help, the adults frowned on my reading choices. So I didn’t trust adults. I used the card catalogues to find what I wanted, and to explore the selections.
Your songs are stories and libraries are full of stories – Do you see other connections between your art form and libraries?
Stories are so very important to me, and they always have been. I think that stories can help hold troubled lives together, they have some kind of magic glue that keeps us from shattering from the weight of our own experiences. There is something intrinsic in human nature that find comfort in other people’s stories. We look at each other and compare ourselves, we feel relief that we are not alone, we feel encouraged by other people’s courage and resilience. It is my deepest hope that my songs operate at the level of literature, that they have that ability to transcend time and place, and to offer other people something they can hold on to. Time will tell.
What are your thoughts about storytelling in songs vs. a novel or short story?
Songs are a very particular art form. There’s is very little time to get the story told in a song. Every word deeply matters, each syllable is expensive real estate. So songs are, by necessity, very dense. What is said in a line in a song, could take pages or even chapters to say in a book. Most Western songs are under 4 minutes long, by necessity. Also, with songs, melody plays a very important part in the telling of the story. We use it to emphasise important words, and manipulate emotions.
What inspires you when you write and what is a good song?
A good song connects to the human heart in a meaningful way. A great song does so in a timeless way, it operates outside of time. Your Cheating Heart was written in the 50’s, it is as relevant today as the day Hank wrote it.
I am inspired by emotion and the desire to make sense of my own life experiences. So often my experiences do not seem to make much sense in the moments they are happening, but then I write about them and it all comes into focus. I suppose in some ways, songwriters impose meaning, play God, create order, when there is not much to be had. But that is the beauty and the challenge of the job.
If you did choose to write a song about a library (hint!) – what would the title be?
hmmmmm, how about “Billions of Beautiful Words.”
How can a good song change the world? – or the life of an individual?
I’m not sure songs change the world in and of themselves. They do, however, have the power to articulate the sentiments of large groups of people, and give people a mantra and a big idea to rally around, and that can be very threatening to a people in power. Over and over again politicians try to use songs their own advantages, some with more success than others.
Have you ever performed at a library?
Not yet! But it would seem like a great place for me to play some songs. I have played at bookstores, lots of them.
Thank you so much for participating – and Thank you for your support for libraries and for your stories and beautiful music.