Music for the love of it

By JIM MACNIE  |  May 5, 2010

SOME WRITERS PETER OUT AS THEY GET OLDER. YOU’RE STILL RATHER PROLIFIC. ARE YOU WRITING MORE THAN EVER? I think I care more these days. I’m trying harder for something that means something. I heard that Neil Young sometimes starts a song and doesn’t leave ’til it’s done. I’ve been trying a couple songs like that. I’ve got things percolating in my head. I’ve got a drum kit in the living room, and I’ve got some rock ’n’ roll songs, and Jerry Jeff Walker-type songs — things I could release myself. I’m not writing more, I’m just writing smarter. I’ve got a ton more tunes that didn’t make the record. Some songs on Red are old, actually. “Vampires” I wrote for my son when I got divorced. He was 9 or 10 when he found out I was getting an apartment and he was bummed. I wanted to make sure it only hurt him once — I didn’t want to go back and forth. So the song says, “Don’t let them bite you again.” I know exactly how I felt when I wrote that line, and I had the tears in my eyes. If I was ever a Method actor, I’d just think of that line and I could cry for you. 

Five songs Mark (almost) never gets tired of playing

“REMEMBER” | I wrote that song in 15 minutes a few years after my father died. I was thinking of Rodney Crowell and Bruce Springsteen as reference points.

“A PAYCHECK AWAY” | I really like this song. It’s a true story and I think Merle Haggard or Waylon Jennings could sing it.

“WALKING IN THE NIGHT” | This is a joyful song, it’s got stupid lyrics and a real nice riff — a homage to the Flamin’ Groovies and Iggy.

“THE HIDEAWAY” | A childhood memory of a shiny black tile bar that me and my stepfather used to drive by when I was a kid.

“I COULD GET USED TO THIS” | I wrote this when I lived in the basement of my mother’s house after I heard a George Jones recording at Rudy Cheeks’s home.

YOU MADE RED WITH EMERSON TORREY. YOUR SCHEMERS PARTNER IS NOW YOUR PRODUCER. We’re brothers. He literally lived in my mother’s house when I didn’t. He had no place to stay and I was living with my girlfriend. He’s my biggest supporter and the guy who gives me my biggest kick in the ass. He’s always told me the truth. We’ve had our fights, but they’ve always been worthwhile.

THE LYRICS ARE STRONG HERE. “WE SHALL ALWAYS REMAIN FRIENDS” SPEAKS OF “MAKING A CHOICE TO IGNORE EACH OTHER’S EVIL TWIN.” I was thinking of a scenario like Treasure of Sierra Madre, of two old robbers making one last caper. “You know if I get caught, I’m going to tell ’em everything. And if you get caught, do the same thing. Don’t worry about it, you’ll get a lesser sentence. We’ll still be pals.”

IT SEEMS LIKE THE ULTIMATE FORGIVENESS. ANOTHER LINE THAT’S IMPRESSIVE IS “I’M WONDERING ABOUT THE LANDMINES I SET UP IN THE PAST.” I GUESS NONE OF US EVER REALLY GET AWAY FROM THAT. There’s tons of [those landmines] out there. Personal ones, professional ones — all sorts of things. It’s like, “I wonder what little secret is going to come back and bite me in the ass?”

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