Q: What’s been your experience so far writing songs on the theme “The Paper Chase”?
A: I’m still in the early stages at this point. I’ve got one song started; we’ll see if it’s a keeper. I’ve decided to use news stories as prompts for these songs, as I have done with some success in the past. There are certainly plenty of people out there in the world doing noteworthy/stupid/dangerous/criminal things in their quests for success, so I’m not lacking for subject matter. We’ll see what I’m able to do with it.
Q: What’s your favorite (or least favorite) poem/novel/story/essay/song about the so-called American Dream?
A: The “poems/novels/stories/essays/songs about the American Dream” file in my brain is a complete mess right now, and I’m having a hard time even figuring out what’s in it, never mind which is my favorite. (Though if I wanted to induce high-school-English-related night terrors for some reason, I’d reread Horatio Alger’s Ragged Dick.) But you really can’t go wrong with Talking Heads, so my answer to this question today is “Once in a Lifetime.”
Q: How do you approach writing a new song — whether self-started or based on a prompt?
A: I write a lot of songs based on prompts, whether for the Bushwick Book Club, a themed volume of Ball of Wax, or some other thing that comes up. Generally I start by reading or otherwise absorbing as much as I can on the theme, then thinking about it for a long time. Then I say “OK, self, sit your ass down and write a song,” and I sit down with my guitar and a pen and see what comes out, repeating as necessary. Unprompted songs are often the same, just without the reading/absorbing/thinking part.
Q: Tell us why you think people should attend the Lit Series.
A: Where else can you experience brand-new, custom-commissioned, sure-to-be-brilliant writing from such a seriously impressive roster of writers? I’m humbled to have been invited to be a part of this event, and am mostly looking forward to hearing what everyone else brings to the table. I’ll do my best to write some good songs for you, though.