‘If you’re going to write a love song you have to bare it all and then croon the shit out of it like Frank Sinatra. You’ll never get the girl if you don’t. – Evan Felker
Last month we reviewed the Turnpike Troubadours latest album Goodbye Normal Street, which release was surrounded by praise from both fans and press. Goodbye Normal Street is indeed everything we expect (and need) from country music in those dark days of commercial house music: treason, drinking, violins, a little bit of love and lots of storytelling. Frontman of the band Evan Felker took the time to tell us a little more about it.
Good Music Fox: I read a quote where you said the songs were all about people you know. Where’s the line between confession and storytelling here?
Evan Felker: When characters are based on people that you stood in the same room with, that you ate dinner with in high school or that you have borrowed money from when you were down and out, that you can handle them with a certain amount of dignity. As far as a line between confession and storytelling, I think that its up to the listener to decide; although, in my experience confessions generally involve a priest.
G.M.F: How important is the honest/confessional side of songwriting for you?
E.F: There is a great history of narrative storytelling and sometimes confession-like soul bearing in country music whose roots can be traced all the way back to Appalachian folk tunes. Just look at Robert Earl Keen’s stuff often about these relatable characters who are admirable in many ways but flawed tragically enough that it undoes them. I like to keep an appropriate amount of separation between songwriting and confession. The one exception to the rule is of course, the love song. If you’re going to write a love song you have to bare it all and then croon the shit out of it like Frank Sinatra. You’ll never get the girl if you don’t.
G.M.F:Who’s the guy depicted in “Before The Devil Knows We’re Dead?”
E.F: Normally I wouldn’t mention actual names but I know his family well enough to know that they wouldn’t mind my talking about him.
The man that the character is based on was W.D Anderson.
W.D, I have gathered, was a hell of an interesting guy. I never actually knew him but I bird hunt with his brother and occasionally, in the evenings after, drink whiskey.
He was a WWII vet and a cowboy and a rancher and he had good dogs.
The story of him passing away always ends with someone saying, “Man, that’s how I want to go.” I figured his story was more than noteworthy.
G.M.F: What’s that picture on the album cover?
E.F: Its a picture of my Mother and late Grandfather. My Great- Aunt took it on some regular Sunday afternoon in the mid 1970’s. I always loved the picture and thought it supported the album title nicely.
…and half a Fox Questionnaire:
Has a song ever saved your life? If not saved, at least changed?
No song has ever saved my life but I have never been near death in any way. I have, however, been affected by people’s writing thousands of times. My Uncle Erv was the first person that I ever knew who was in a band and could play guitar. I remember him coming and camping with us when I was eleven or so and singing “House of the Rising Sun,” around a campfire. That probably was the first time I really wanted to be a musician.
You’re an instrument. What are you and who’s playing you?
Carrie Rodriguez’s fiddle has a good thing going.
Which song is stuck in your head right now?
Dan Bern, “After the Parade”
What’s the most beautiful sound to your ears?
Applause, its the sound of people being happy.
And the ugliest one?
What’s the best advice you could give anyone?
Learn an instrument, listen to your Momma, and don’t take no shit off of nobody.-Guy Terrifico