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Marshall on Mellowicious!…
Have a Little Faith
I started writing this song while driving to the Nashville Airport to pick up this guy I was hopelessly in love with. I have a bunch of songs from that period that I never got around to recording – Marianne Faithful/get-out-the-razor blade type songs. But this one was different. It had hope. I could still relate to it. So I dusted it off and recorded it. This was the last song recorded for this project. (“Bright Red Sunset” was the first.) We just got more and more rocking as we went along.
Island Song II
Island Song II is a recent re-write of a song I wrote years ago called “The Island Song.” I used to love that song, but, because of a drug reference in one of the verses, I had quit singing it. So I re-wrote it. John Donne said, “No man is an island.” And in some ways, that’s true. But it’s also true that we are all islands. “Island Song II” is about wanting to connect and have it be real.
There’s a railroad track that runs by my house in Nashville. Sometimes I walk on it to clear my head. This song was written after one such walk. My husband and I were going through a hard time. I was seriously thinking about leaving him, and it was breaking my heart. Even though I’m married and settled down, seems like my soul is often “out on that line.” There was a railroad track near the house I grew up in (Spartanburg, SC). The track was so close, the whole house would shake whenever a train went by. I loved that feeling of being warm and safe under the covers while the house was shaking. Made me feel safer somehow. I wrote “Railroad Track” on the second anniversary of 9/11 – September 11, 2003. The next day, I heard Johnny Cash had died. That hit me like a ton of bricks. And in that very moment, I realized I’ve included a Johnny Cash tribute song on just about every album I’ve ever recorded – a song that could not have been written had there not been a Johnny Cash. “Railroad Track” is my tribute song to him for this album. Note: In 1978, I recorded a slowed-down version of “I Walk the Line” for my second Epic album, Jaded Virgin. I was so cocky, I even changed some of the words. Sometime afterward, I was in the Nashville CBS offices, when word started circulating that Cash was in the building. Next thing I know, here he comes down the hall. Before anyone could say anything, he called out “Hey, Marshall. How’s it goin’?” I was floored that he knew my name, and also a little anxious he might be pissed off about the way I’d recorded his song. But then he said, in that rumbling, deep voice of his, “Hey, I really love the way you did my song ‘I Walk the Line’.” He was smiling all over and looking right at me. “You want to know why?” Finally I said “Why?” “Because everyone who ever recorded it did it like I did it, and you didn’t do that.” There was a moment, then I laughed and said, “You got that right!” Later I heard he used to go over to Jack Clement’s to “be with the boys.” Jack had this big, cushioned chair that would spin around. Johnny used to love to get in that big chair and be spun around while listening to my version of “I Walk the Line.”
Call the Lamas!
The story behind this song is well documented in Chapter 12 of my book, Goodbye, Little Rock and Roller (2003). But here’s a story that’s not in it: One night, I was playing a club in Nashville – it was one of those writer In-the- Round things. As it turned out, it was Alumni Weekend at Vanderbilt and several former classmates were in the audience. During the break, one – a gal from Charlotte – came up and gushed, “Ooh, I just love that new song — the one about that little poodle in the grocery cart!” I mean she really loved it. It’s always humbling when things like that happen. I’ve always subscribed to that Mark Twain quote, the one that says “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter — ’tis the difference between the lightning- bug and the lightning.” We writers often sweat blood trying to find just the right word, then someone says something like that, and I’m thinking, well, maybe it’s just the music and the feel, and I shouldn’t be knocking myself out so much over these lyrics!
I’m Just Pitiful That Way
I wrote this after dropping my husband off at the airport, back when he was working for this company that had him traveling a lot. While recording it, Lawler told me “pitiful” was Dan Penn’s favorite word (to have in a song). Off the top of my head, I can only think of two that have it: “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me” (Warren Zevon) and “They Call Me Mr. Pitiful” (Otis Redding). But I love that word – pitiful. It’s what we all are. But who wants to admit it? One night, I sang this song at a songwriter In-the Round at The Bluebird Café, and this successful songwriter – I won’t mention his name – came up to me and said, “That’s the worst damn song I ever heard. Why would you write such a song?” “Because I can,” I replied. Definitely some Every Brothers and Mickey & Sylvia influence here.
This was the first song I wrote after finishing the first draft of my book. I had just about had it with my computer. I was also seriously wondering if I had a brain left in my head. So I decided to go in there (inside my brain) and see for myself. I love that Joan Osborne song where she sees a spider web inside Ray Charles’s head. Maybe I never would have thought about having a conversation with my brain, had I not heard that Joan Osborne song. Who knows?
I Fell in Love Again This Morning
I started writing this on the first day of spring — March 21, 2003. Danny Flowers had dropped off an amplifier he wanted me to try out, and, as usually happens whenever we get together, we started writing. But here’s where it came from. The night before had been one of those nights. My husband and I had gotten real close, as close as two people can get under the covers. And I’m not necessarily talking about sex, and it doesn’t really matter. It’s that place of vulnerability I’m talking about. We were just two people being as naked together as two humans can be. I remember watching him sleep. The windows in our bedroom were open, and it was raining outside – a soft and steady rain. And as I lay there listening, I felt my love for him go to a new place. It was like a door had opened. I love the sentiment expressed in this song – that of falling in love over and over again with the same person.
Now the Rain Is Falling
I wrote this song four days after my brother died. Chris (my husband) and I were back in Nashville, having been with my family all the week before. Chris was out somewhere, and I was sitting up on a bed with my Martin guitar in this high-rise apartment where we used to live. It had these big, plate glass windows everywhere. I called it “The Sky Palace.” It was like “living in the weather.” Anyway, it was raining hard, and looking out, I felt like I was free falling through space, because I had been SO CLOSE with my family and all the people back home, and now I was alone. (Oh, this is described in my book, too – pp. 246-247.) I call this my “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” song. It just came out with that Appalachian feel. And it’s got that same image… of watching someone’s body being carried away. Someone you love. I like that in the first two verses, you think it’s about someone leaving, but then, after the break, it hits you — why the person is leaving.
Bright Red Sunset
This song is based on a dream I had, where I was a particle in space. I was pure consciousness moving at the speed of light, but with a sensation of “floating.” As soon as I woke up, I scribbled the dream down on a sheet of paper, then forgot about it. A few years later, after attending the funeral of a close friend, I was sitting in my writing room, staring out the window, when suddenly I looked down, and there was the sheet of paper with the dream. So I took my guitar and began writing the song. Sometimes I think this dream gave me a sneak preview into the hereafter. I’ve never had dream like it, before or since. Usually, I am my self in my dreams. My self in my body, or my self hovering over my body. But a particle in space?
I Love Everybody (I Love Everything)
Tim Krekel and I wrote this song in the week after the Columbine shooting. Sometimes I tell audiences it was written after 9/11, but it doesn’t really matter. When things like Columbine and 9/11 happen, what we need to do – corny as it sounds – is love more, not less. After hearing this recording for the first time, Tommy Spurlock (engineer, who also played steel guitar) said, “Damn! That’s so wrong, it’s right!”
Trouble with a Capital ‘T’
I wrote this, oddly enough, after attending a funeral. Lyle Lovett was there, and the minute I saw him, I felt this attraction. I just got a flash crush on him right then and there. Of course, Lyle doesn’t know anything about this. He was just there, paying his respects, acting like a perfect gentleman. Meanwhile, I’m having my little crush and feeling kind of guilty about it, since I was in church. I considered dropping this one from the album, but I like that the girl is rolling away down the highway at the end. It just seemed like a natural ending for the record. When she says “Bye, Bye,” it’s like “The End” at the end of a movie.