Thursday, May 22, 2008

Me and Tim McGraw

I wanna write a country music song. And I want Tim McGraw to sing it.

I’ve wanted to do this for a long time – ever since I had a dream that Tim and Faith and I were in my yard talking about the song I’d written because he was preparing to record it. The dream was so vivid I went across the road to Momma and Daddy’s house to tell them about it and, you’re not going to believe this, but my daddy’d had a nearly identical dream on the same night! And he’d heard some of the lyrics, but couldn’t remember any of them!

Unfortunately all my writing time for the next long while was taken up trying to make the edits Algonquin wanted on my first (only) book, Heart in the Right Place. But I knew it would happen eventually. It was just a matter of time.

A few days ago I walked into Food City in Pigeon Forge and heard Tim singing My Little Girl. That’s a really nice song and it got me motivated to start writing my first country music song.

I stayed up late into the night scribbling for hours… It’s my destiny to write a song for Tim. So, it’s gonna happen. I couldn’t stop it even if I wanted to … and I don’t. The fact that I have no talent, ability, or training in the discipline of songwriting is not going to discourage me a bit either.

I made a documentary film with no training whatsoever and it worked out real good. Then I wrote a book with absolutely no training and it worked out good too.

To tell the truth, the reason I wrote a book after making the film instead of making a second film was because during the making of the movie I promised God if he would help me get out of the maddening multi-year million dollar project with no fatalities I would never ever let fifty crazy high-strung Hollywood dreamers and lunatics get between me and my ability to realize a product from my artistic imagination again.

In my wandering search for the right medium for my distinctive hillbilly voice and total lack of managerial skills, I’ve written for film, television, radio, short and long form print media. It’s all been okay, but not the magic I’m looking for. Now I want to be sung. By Tim.

This obsession with sound probably has to do with the fact that I was born with an eye handicap. I can’t see for s***. The whole time I was working on my book I was conceptualizing it as a hillbilly comic opera. A sort of Gilbert and Sullivan of the Smokies. I don’t mean I wanted it to be made into a musical. I mean it came to me in sonic form, like a medieval epic poem, Chanson de Carolyn. Or, as my oldest friend, the world champion of accidental but astute malapropisms referred to it, “The Idi-Odyssey” (the front of the word is pronounced to sound like “idiot”).

I have motley-colored dog-eared stacks of fast food napkins all over my house with single lines scribbled on them. I’ve been accumulating them for years for possible use in my song. For example, once I heard just the last line of a savage argument between a man and woman. A woman shouted, “If I can’t have your love, I don’t want your Vidalia onions!”

The line haunts me. I suspect there is a country song in there somewhere.

The Vidalia onion inspiration was the first one I felt might work out to be a good song. The next one came from a friend whose husband left her for a woman with the same name. Something about being a Suzie who was left for another Suzie seemed especially irritating and unfair to both her and me. After the divorce my friend had to move to a used single-wide trailer. She experienced this as a surreal come-down. When she got her first look at the inside of her new home, she was surprised to find it was immaculate and perfectly empty except for a single item: a wedding dress hanging in the closet.

Now there’s gotta be a country music song in that.

My third idea came from two other friends who’re currently shopping for a third wife and a third husband, respectively. Unfortunately, they don’t want to marry each other, I tried that already.

I’ve never gotten married even once (which is the source of my fourth idea). The main reason I’ve never married is because I’ve always suspected nobody would ever take their vows as seriously as I would. The disparity between the marital statistics of myself in comparison with everyone around me has frequently caused me to ponder what in the h*** people like my two friends might possibly be thinking about as they recite holy vows for a third time.

I’ve asked them both, and they have no answer. So that’s what they’ll be thinking. Not a d*** thing.

There’s a great country song in that. It would make an ideal song for Tim McGraw. Especially since it would structurally match my two favorite songs by Tim, Don’t Take the Girl and One of These Days, both of which have three compelling stanzas. I could write a stanza for each trip down the aisle and the chorus would the same words every time but mean something totally different in the changing context. That would be perfect.

I’ve strained for a line of lyrics on that “Third Time’s a Charm” idea, but nothing is happening yet.

Recently I got a book on songwriting and found out I shared a methodology with one of the greats, Harlan Howard (I Fall to Pieces, I’ve Got a Tiger By the Tail). We both write from comments we overhear and jot down on napkins. Okay, he wrote on bar napkins and I write on fast food napkins, but there’s still a theme there.

He was a serial marry-er and I’m an old maid (with a trail of ex-boyfriends 36 years long). So there’s another similarity: I suspect we’re both commitment phobic.

That’s some strong similarity: professional writers who never carry anything to write on…or with…who can’t tolerate the idea of writing more than one sentence at a sitting…and who don’t have any ideas except those they hear spoken by other people around them.

The book on songwriting gave me the confidence to come up with the title and a chorus for my old maid song: “She Ain’t Purty, But…” There’s a world of potential in that.

I’m telling all this in a blog because I understand from my book that a lot of country music songwriters work in teams. Perhaps I would benefit from having a teammate. No experience is required.

If you wanna get in on the ground floor of a no-possible-way-to-fail hit-song project, email me at, and let’s get to cranking.

It’s a sure thing.


Buffy said...

You had me at Tim McGraw.


Jo said...

Sammy Kershaw had a song called "Vidalia"

Ain't nothing so precious as a first born child
What to call their little angel
They wondered for awhile
Your dear mama Violet
And your proud daddy Dale
I know when they named ya
They surely meant well, but...

Vidalia, Vidalia
Girl won't you tell me why
Sweet Vadalia
You always gotta make me cry

Good luck on your song. And remember, it doesn't have to rhyme, just listen to Alan Jackson, he can make anything rhyme.

Wendy said...

I like the Vidalia line!

W. Brannen
Executive Director
Vidalia Onion Committee