Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode · 11 months ago

WB S1E28: Songwriting as Storytelling, Part 2


WRITERS' BLOCK: Esteemed Nashville singer/songwriters, Kim Richey and Gretchen Peters continue their convesation with Ron Block and perform songs bothe written by them and by each other.

Welcome to the part two of my amazing conversation with Kim Richie and Gretchen Peters. If you missed the first one, jump back to the November 26th episode and do yourself a favor and ketchup. MM. Back then, I heard this song, which, like the other songs that we were talking about, just made me weep every time I heard it, which was called A Place Called Home, and It just and actually I put it on a playlist before my husband. When we were just getting together, I was just like, I know he's gonna relate to this song. It's because it's really about Wanderers. Welcome to the friends and fiction writer's block podcast, four New York Times Bestselling authors, one rock star Librarian and endless stories join Mary Kay Andrews, Kristin Harmel, Kristy Woodson Harvey and Patti Callahan. Henry along with Ron Block as novelists, we are four long time friends with 70 books between us and I am Ron Block. Please join us for fascinating author interviews and insider talk about publishing and writing. If you love books and are curious about the writing world, you are in the right place. Yeah, so one of the things that I have read about both of you is that you are so good at collaborating and supporting each other. So one of the things I was hoping that you would do for us today is kind of shine a light on one of each other's songs that you really have a lot and we'll play them for people. Yes, I'd love to go first. Um, uncle first. Okay. Before I knew Kim as well as I do now, before we knew each other back in the day. But we were also, you know, like event friends. You never saw each other unless we were playing a show. Exactly. Yeah, exactly. We're either playing a show together or at some stupid music business thing. So, um, before back then I heard this song which, like the other songs that we were talking about, just made me weep every time I heard it, which was called a place called home, huh? And it just and actually I put it on a playlist before my husband when we were just getting together, I was just like, I know he's gonna relate to this song. It's because it's really about wanderers. You know, and I think all of us, to some extent, Kim to a greater extent than a lot of us. But all of us who do this thing are kind of we're kind of wanderers and travelers and restless a little bit. And and there's a kind of wonderful, uh, happy, sad feeling when you're out on that. You've been out on the road a long time, and you're homesick. But you're also kind of, I don't know. I remember there were times when I was out by myself back in the early days. I didn't have a band or driver or anything. I was all by myself, and I would have this thought. Not one soul on this planet knows where I am right now, and it kind of gave me this happiness and sadness all at the same time. And that's what Kim Song does for me. It's that feeling of, you know, I'm just I'm out here. Here I am. It's a little voice like a little light, you know, like a little light that's shining in the night. Um, that that the lyrics to that song, it's just not to mention the melody is so wistful I couldn't agree more. Do you have a favorite line from the song? I guess the thing that the thing that turns the tears on, uh, is that is that it's the I guess it's in the chorus because you...

...repeat it someday. Someday I'll go, well, there ain't no rain and snow. And I'm just like, yeah, but that's never going to you know, it's like that. It's almost the diluted narrator saying, Yeah, someday, but you just kind of No, no, no, you're never gonna find that way. It's not gonna happen. Yeah, it's a great song. And for those of you listening, here's a little sample of the song. Someday I'll go where there ain't no rain or snow. Until then I traveled along and I make my bed when the stars above my head dream of a place call. So Kim talked to us about a song of Gretchen's that means a lot to you. Okay, I love arguing with ghosts, and, uh, what? There are so many things I love about the song, The economy of it, like, Look, there's Kevin Walz said this to me one time at a songwriting circle when I just moved to town and I played a song and he came up to me and said afterwards, He said, There's no fat on that song And I was like, What a great complement, you know. And I think the I love how this this song is melodically really simple and beautiful, like in the chorus. Chuck Prophet always says It's the Dylan thing where you say the 1st 1st line, then the second line is different than the third line is different and you repeat the first line for the fourth for the fourth line first. And so it's got that going on. So there are so many things about this song that just draw like this is master class What I would play, too, if I were doing a songwriting workshop. Because this song has has all the elements and elements that draw people into the song and don't make them feel included rather than like, Well, this is This is too hard for you to understand, probably, or it's like the first line. Okay, here's it starts out. Um, I don't know why I'm looking at my thing because I know it. It's I get lost in my hometown. So just that amount of words. I mean, you can really relate to it in Nashville, for sure, but But people are like, you know, immediately. You know, this person gets lost even in some place where they were raised, and they've been there forever. And then since they tore the driving down, it's like, Oh, now that puts you in a time frame as well without you know, this song is so great in saying all these things without actually saying it's showing him The song is really visual, and I think the melody is beautiful And, um, like when you go to the course, usually you're supposed to let go Oh, you know and everything just lifts up. And I think the corn starts on a minor tour. Yeah, it just goes down to the relatively. Yeah, but but it's still whips. But so I I love this song, and it's This is one of those songs that I never, ever, ever get tired here. Oh, I have to shout out to my co writers on that song. Uh, Teresa Berg and Ben Glover, not too shabby. The three of us sat down. That was the first time we wrote anything first and only time the three of us wrote anything together and wrote it in an afternoon, which is completely not typical for me. That's kind of nuts. But it's, you know, it just kind of fell out, and sometimes those are the Those are the ones. It's a beautiful song. It's really, really a great song to you. So I want to say You said the economy of lyric or something earlier that it's like Boom! And put a light bulb in my head because both of your... So I go like, how can they say so much with so few lyrics? And that's so true for thing and give us earworms in my house because we are. Your songs are always on repeat in our heads. You know, the song form is tiny, it's It's tiny, it's it's 3-5 minutes. You have this little frame to tell a whole story, and so every word counts. And if you can draw a picture, you've you've saved 1000 words to use the cliche or to rephrase the cliche, Um, and that's why I think pictures are so important in songwriting because you can. You know, I think my my classic example is Kristofferson's Sunday morning coming down. It's a whole the first versus an entire character sketch. You know, everything about that guy in four lines. Um, you know, the beer I had for breakfast that tells you a lot, right? So, you know, that's to me. That's, uh that's really if you can If you can show me pictures in a song, I can get so much deeper, so much faster. And, you know, most songs have, what, 16, 24 lines. You know, not not a whole lot of room to move. Say a lot more by showing it. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's so true. So on that note, let's take a listen to argument with ghosts. A little bit of a mm. At the same old kitchen table in the same old buster check. I'm drinking coffee, arguing with closed, arguing with goal. Okay, I have a couple more questions for you, if you don't mind. Um, I'm wondering how when you put so much of yourself into some of these songs, how it is when you let them go when you record them, and then they're out in the world like Do you? Does it stay with you or do you Do you have the ability to just let it go and let people interpret it the way that they're hearing it? That's a great question. Um, well, you have to let them interpret. It's the way they hear it. You have. You don't have a choice. Paul Simon said that he feels like in some ways the audience is the final co writer on a song which I kind of love. It's brilliant, I know. For my part, um, I've had a couple songs rather famously interpreted in ways that they were never meant to be interpreted like Independence Day. Yeah, and that was a hard one for me because it was used as a much like born in the USA. It was used as a some kind of a jingoistic, you know, Roger Roth patriotic anthem when it's actually a song about domestic abuse, and and that that did not go down well with me. Um, but you you know, you don't have control over that. And I think what the beautiful thing that happened with that song is that it came around full circle. Um I remember reading A an essay that was written by a gay man in his thirties living in New York. So, you know, he grew up in the Midwest and he always thought that song was schlocky and awful because he thought country music was schlocky and awful when he was, he was trying to get as far away from it as he could, you know, as a kid. And then, you know, sometime in his thirties, he actually listen to it and listen to the lyrics and just reclaimed..., you know? And I I loved it because somehow when he wrote and he wrote this beautiful essay about that, Um, and when when I read that, I thought, that is what a song, If you're if you're lucky, that's what a song that's got staying power will do. It will eventually just kind of it will just come around on its own, and people will. People will get it, you know. But I mean, at some level, you know, like we were saying before you, it's not our job to figure out where they go in the world. It's it's just our job to put them out there So you have to. And I also think I think different interpretations are fascinating. I mean, I I rode on a bus to ST Cloud, and in my mind, that was about suicide. But when I talk to Trisha Yearwood, who was the first one to record it, and I told her that she was shocked, I never thought that from your notice a lot of people don't. And I think the thing is, I needed it to be about that in order to get, like, emotionally into the place where I needed to get to write it. But I didn't need for the world to think that I think it. I think it actually is. A, um it's a strength of the song that other people can put their own right story into it. Do you know what I mean? Right? Yeah, a little bit of ambiguity and mystery is not a bad thing, right? I Yeah, I agree. I don't write like, um I mean, probably, especially from coming up Songwriting, like learning a lot about songwriting in Nashville here is like my lyrics aren't that obtuse. I don't think they're They're, like, fairly straightforward, But there's so many little different nuances. Like like the song we're talking about a place called home like, someday I'll go where there ain't no rain or snow like to me, that's what I'm dead That's what that means. It's not like I'm going to find a place that's, you know, really, the weather is nice, but that wasn't what I was thinking. And I only have one person ever asked me, Is that Is that what you were thinking when you wrote I took that lines? Means someday these these this sadness will I won't have this burden. I won't be carrying this sadness. That's the That's the beauty of being able to interpret. And I would actually argue that your lyrics are there, not there, not obscure in any way. But they leave lots of room for me to to put put your put yourself if you don't do this, Yeah, I mean, you don't do the thing, which really, frankly drives me crazy that a lot of songwriters in Nashville do, which is take every single, you know, color in and, you know, like fill in all the blanks so that you could never, ever, ever, you know, mistake this for that, or, I mean, I always I always quote the I mean to me. The greatest ambiguous and mysterious song of all is famous blue raincoat. Find Leonard Cohen. And, like I can still listen to that song ago. What the hell happened there? You know, and I love this, but your your songs are there's loads of room to get in there and drift around and put yourself that's that's nice to hear into them. It's kind of where you are, too, because I can listen to a song of either of yours like today and then next week I'm going to listen, and it's going to be a whole different take on it for me. It really depends on where I meet the song. I've had that happen to me when I when I've been singing a song like an older song I had I remember one specifically one night singing a song on stage, a song I wrote called Like Water Into Wine and A line came by and hit me. And there was a double meaning that for literally 20 years I had completely missed. I wrote... so I mean, if that can happen to the writer. It can certainly happen to the listener if the song is well, you do. You do well, like I have a song called I'm All Right. And that's the That's the course of it. And and I know I sing it differently depending on how I feel. Like sometimes it could be like, Okay, I'm not really all right. But if I keep saying I'm all right at some point in theory, I will be. And then there's other times, like, you know, I'm all right, you know, I'm doing great. That's the great thing about that song, actually is because that it does. I've seen you do it a lot. And it it really works when you're not over. I'm alright. I'm alright. I'm I'm gonna be all right. I'm kind of I'm okay. Maybe not. Maybe not. Um, So talk to me a little bit about going in and being in the music industry and being in Nashville through the pandemic. You feel this one first through the band. I was I was with you. The first part would put some music business like and I said to Gretchen today when I got here it's like death by 1000 cuts. But the during the pandemic thing, I mean, everybody just dealt with it differently. You know, there are some people that were like, you know, there I heard interviews where people are like, Well, I recorded an entire album and I wrote a book and, you know, and I have three Children all this kind of stuff because like, and I'm thinking, well, I kept some sour dough starter alive for a year. I'm pretty proud of myself for that. But like my during that time for me, I mean, I couldn't I didn't feel like great anything. My head was full of other stuff, and, uh, and I wrote a couple. I wrote maybe two songs and that was it, the whole the whole time. But there were just so many things that that were going on in my head that I'm not excuse me really good. I don't feel like I'm good writing about those things, like political songs like I don't I don't have any political well and you have to, even if you are going to write about, like what was going on politically or with the pandemic and you've got to like that stuff has to suggest that you have to be able to step back a bit. I mean, you were right in the middle of it. Exactly. It's like you. You can't you know, you can't just immediately write about it without some gestation And some, you know, um, yeah, I was I was like him only maybe even more so. I didn't write anything. I didn't. I felt like we were In a slow motion emergency for 18 months. And, um, I was also really exhausted from so much touring and especially so much going back and forth between here in Europe. We were doing that to three times a year. Um, for a long time. And honestly, when the lockdown happened, I was relieved that there was a There was part of me, of course, that was terrified and all the other things and it was awful. But there was also a little bit of relief. There was a snow day thing. It's like, you know, when I said we're gonna have to cancel this, you know, next this month, the shows and I was like, Oh, okay. Well, I'm gonna I'm gonna plant some flowers, you know, And the flowers won't run screaming from me when I try to pick them and the thing because they know I'm going to let them die. So I you know, I planted a garden and I was like, you know, and I actually got to know my neighbors and all of this stuff. So at first, at first it was it just felt like a nice breather. I had a bedtime for the first time in my entire... life. Like I went to bed at the same time every night and it was awesome. My sleep. I have to say it was a lot better than being on the road because there's basically, you know, whatever. Your schedule is different every day. Um, but they got less fun. Is it progressed? And the other thing was, some people like like you said, some people reacted by being super productive and doing live streams three times a week, and and I honestly, I did a few, but I am. You know, I would find myself, you know, three or four songs into a live stream. And as much as I loved seeing all those people come you know, online and everything. I would find myself really tired, and I for a while couldn't figure out why. And then I realized you're not getting any energy back from your singing to a camera. Yeah, that's the great thing about performing live. And I've been doing, you know, done some shows Now, since we're kind of getting back out and there's just nothing like it, I mean, just a bunch of hearts floating up on your screen doesn't get it, you know, not compared to you know, it. It really makes you realize what what a transaction happens in a in a room with real human beings when you're playing music and they're giving you love and you're giving them love and it's just like it's energy and you know anybody that's done, it knows you can go out on a stage feeling exhausted and tired and, yeah, an hour and a half later, you feel great, you know, and that's because of the energy you get back. But you don't get that in front of a computer screen. Also like to be able to write with people you know, they were to play music with people. You know that was taken off the table for a while, you know, I know some people did the zoom, you know. Right. But I can't do that at all. So So, yeah, I'm not I'm not big on the screen thing. So it wasn't It wasn't that great for me musically, really? I think it really the other thing that the pandemic did is it really laid bare the fact that, you know, independent musicians are living on the edge already? They were already really kind of scrapping by and and, uh, you know, Streaming is a joke in terms of, you know, the income stream from that. And, um, but the pandemic, I think, just kind of revealed that and made it a lot worse. And honestly, my my real empathy right now is for young musicians that were just getting their wheels under them. And then this thing happened and it put what a two year delay in their in their career? Probably. And you know, I mean, I'm fine. I've had my fun. Anything I get is extra Jerry, and you know, at this point, but for somebody who's like in their twenties or early thirties or something that's just getting started. I just I felt for them because what a hard thing to have your life in your career put on hold like that. You know, hopefully they were more adapt at the streaming thing, not streaming music, but like performance, you know, live like YouTube things and all of that kind of Florida. But it's just, you know, it's, you know, there's there, most of them at a subsistence level, anyway. And it's just it's it's been really, really hard And, you know, and you hate to see great favorite venues go away that that of our favorite venues shut down. You know that a lot of time, you know, So OK, enough bringing everybody down just did my fault. Yeah, it's true. Um, so are there. Are there any people out there that are up and coming that you you think that we ought to be paying attention to? I think Courtney Marie Andrews is just brilliant. What? She's just like a gorgeous voice, and she's...

...very much her own. Uh, she's very much her own artist. She doesn't sound like anybody else. I also heard a song by another young woman who's on Oh, boy Records and Emily Scott Robinson. She she on Oh, boy, she's on Oh, boy Records And she I just I don't know how I even heard her album is called American Siren, but I heard I think I saw a video like a live video of her during, um, Americana week. I think of a song that I'm assuming is from that album. That was just It just floored me. Um, and I'm going to try and look for the title right now. Oh, it's, um yeah, the song that that I heard her do lives called Let Him Burn and I I just I was knocked out by her and by the song. So both of those young women, I think are really worth paying attention to. Good, Good. I want to mention Charlotte Cornfield, and she's a Canadian artist, and I met her through, uh, I think for the past four years I've been part of a songwriting, uh, workshop. That's up in the vamp center for the arts. Um, and Charlotte was there one year and actually over. You know, when we were in lockdown, I had a couple a couple of women from that class that I met with mentoring, you know, during the pandemic as it's over. But during the lockdown part. But when it was, it was she just has a new album that just came out yesterday, I think. And it's just brilliant. And, um, she just has a great way with words of these tiny phrases. A lot of her lyrics are repeated kind of phrases over and over again. And you just there so visual her lyrics are. And, um, yeah, that Charlotte would be somebody that that that I would say for people to have a listen. So I was hoping that maybe I could coax the two of you into maybe giving us a little live music. Certainly. I think you have coaxed. Yeah, I'll go first, if that's okay, because I want you to sing on this with me, So Mm hmm. Uh huh. Our lady on the bus people is holding forth tonight. Her body it is waste, but her eyes are shining And our father, who art slightly drunk, is warding off the shakes and he staggers underneath awake. Other promises he made Say grace, Say grace. Forgive yourself for all your mistakes. So you can start over if that's what it takes. Just come inside and set yourself a plane and say grades. We are gathered here together to praise his holy name In a sheltered by the...

...greyhound station down on 5th and main and as to who were praying to their own two schools of thought, a never loud provided or an unforgiving God say grace, Say grace. Forgive yourself for all your mistakes. You might find salvation in your neighbor's face. Just come inside and set yourself a place and say grace. Yeah, now the Bible on the table saying, Feel good she But the T V and of course, screen You're not welcome. And on a poster in the waiting room, she greets the Tyron Poole. Our Lady of the Harbor stands beside the golden door. Say grace, Say grace. Forgive yourself for all your mistakes. You are not a loser. You are not a hopeless cakes. Just come inside and set yourself place. Say grace. Come inside and set yourself a place. Say grace. Oh my God, Thank you, God, I love that song. I love hearing Kim sing on it. We did this tour in the U k a couple of years a few years ago, a few years ago, I guess, and every night she came out and sang. God sang on that and I think you sang on the record. She sang on Sing on the on the Record for My Records, too. So Kim is like the background singers everybody wants on their records. Everybody. And that's very obvious. Why I love That's my favorite thing. That's my favorite thing. Is singing with people. Yeah, I'd much rather be. I mean, what is that? What is that movie? The so many feet from 20 ft from stardom? I was just like I want to be that I don't want to be what I would...

...what I am. I want to be 20 ft from stardom. I want to be like a background singer. That's the that's the gig of my dreams. Really. My my big ambition when I was 14 was to just sing, background and play tambourine with Crosby, stills and nash. That was all I wanted. You're going to say the Archie's. No, it's going to be the Partridge Family. No, no. Oh, my God, I was cooler than that. The arches Okay, Kim. All right, you got all right. Let's take it back. I didn't, uh I wrote this song with Mike Henderson I haven't written with. He's one of my most favorite writers to Henderson's. Uh, anyway, here we go. I used a while back on forever. I used to race my demons down along my best I a world I don't Well, name change faces. I've already tasted everything They got cell. I'm staying out there.

Mhm. Oh, oh, Blown away. Both of those songs are just so so full of story and so full of just heart and emotion. And I thank you both for doing that. I just I'm speechless. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. In fact, in our home here last night, I asked my husband, Jeff, What song do you think Kim will pick to sing? He says, Oh, it's going to be wild horses. I said no, I don't think so. I love that song. He won. I was going to pick something that I could sing. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. That's not probably ideal conditions, but it's great. So I know that the two of you are planning on touring again together overseas. Yes, We are going to be good. We have such a ball. The last time we're doing all the dates that got postponed Twice and three times, all in one big lump. Starting in, what? March of 2020 to the middle of March. And it goes all the way through middle of April, kind of. And then we're going to end of April. Yeah, something May, because there's some Netherlands stuff coming over. Yeah, we're We're going to be renting an apartment. We had a really great kim. One of the things that Kim, when you're on the road with her, my tour manager is also this same way. She makes you go on field trips like you. If you have a day off, you're not lying around in the hotel, Like left to my own devices. I'd be like, I'm just going to be in my room and I'm gonna have room service. I'll see you in 24 hours. Let's go. Let's go. But she and also my tour manager, Rebecca, are just they found all kinds of amazing things for us to go. Do and see. You know, I might have grumbled a little bit at the beginning, but it really we had a blast. We really did. We packed a lot of life into what could have just been, you know, Dr Sam Check Gig hotel. Dr Rinse. Repeat. You know, So it's such a good gang. And I love getting like, like, you know, I get to do my dream gig singing with you guys during your set. Yeah, we all do. You know, we collaborate and do you know, because you can't. Well, for one thing, I was not going to have her with us and not, like, make her sing with us because it's just so much fun that we have because the bands, the guys in the band, everyone sings with five singers on stage, which is such a luxury. I mean, you don't get you don't get to do that that often, So that was pretty great. So, yeah, we were just talking about that before doing this podcast we were talking about. We better start boot camp because we're gonna We're gonna have to Well, just so you know, I'm going to be on tour with you. I'll be singing backup for you. All right? No, No, you don't want to hear that. I'm kidding. You do not want to hear that. Well, so I can't thank the two of you enough for being a part of this amazing episode. Your music has truly touched so many lives. And I know that you're going to gain many more fans Now, from this episode, by writing is very profound and moving as a profession. And thank goodness you've shared your gifts with the world. So thank you for that. And thank you for joining me today. Thank you. Thanks for having us, Ron. Your sweetheart. Great. We had fun.

Yeah. So much more. So much more for us to be in the same, I can tell. I can tell you just have such a synergy between Yeah, right. And thank you all for listening to the podcast on behalf of the Fab Four at Friends and Fiction. If you have enjoyed this or any of our other episodes, please be sure to share with a friend. We treasure the support that you've all shown to us. See you next week. Mhm. Thank you for tuning in to the friends and Fiction writer's block podcast. Please be sure to subscribe, rate and review on your favorite podcast platform. Tune in every Friday for another episode, And you can also join us every week on Facebook or YouTube, where our live friends and fiction show airs at seven p.m. eastern standard time. We are so glad you're here.

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