Every time I sit down to write a book, I find myself constructing a kind of "soundtrack" for that particular work.
For THREE CHORDS & THE TRUTH (now available via Betimes Books), and set against the 1958 (G)Nashville music scene, many of the songs I was listening to in order to keep in period and in mood went straight into the final text.
Last time, I offered up a playlist of those songs that actually are named or spotlighted in the final novel.
This time, an offering of some songs that informed the book, but more in the manner of other "soundtracks" I've put together for previous works. These tunes helped keep me on track in painting a picture of Nashville and the singer/songwriter scene, but weren't of the novel's era and so didn't find their way into the final text.
Call these songs, THREE CHORDS & THE TRUTH, "The Invisible (or Inaudible) Soundtrack":
First up, a favorite tune about the songwriter as scuffling up-and-comer. Kris Kristofferson pens the ultimate songwriter's anthem, set against the Nashville scene of the late 1960s to up around 1972 0r '73, when Nashville was a bit like Paris in the early 1920s—a nexus for inspired, new and daring voices...a southern U.S. "Left Bank" that came and went far too fast.
Another Kristofferson tune about putting it all on the line to chase a dream and vision, but this one darker, much more haunted with self-doubt and even a bit of self-contempt.
It resonates still more when you know Kris' mother sent him a blistering letter more or less disowning him for trashing a promising military/educator's career to be a recording studio janitor in Nashville in an attempt to make critical songwriting career connections.
This one by Willie Nelson is from an obscure film I love called SONGWRITER. (An essay on same I penned way back for a site shared by Megan Abbott and Sara Gran can be found here.)
If you actually know the film, you might recognize this character played by Willie Nelson, "Doc Jenkins", hiding between the covers of THREE CHORDS.
This tune is also sung by Willie Nelson and crops up in SONGWRITER. In this version, Waylon Jennings duets.
(Listen closely for a certain line similar to one often used to describe Mr. Lassiter by many of his critics and readers.)
Lacy J. Dalton had a hit with this song about aspiring songwriters many moons ago:
This is, hands down, my favorite song of old Nashville and one written and performed by the late great Mickey Newbury.
This next one was listened to countless times while writing THREE CHORDS & THE TRUTH and is a virtual walking tour of old Music Row and the landmarks to be found in the new novel.
"Do you remember the old town here yesterday? The walk from the Ryman...?"
THREE CHORDS' title was originally, "Gnashville, Mon Amour" and that G in front of Nashville was owed to Mr. Newbury who ruefully coined that spelling way back in the bitter day.
The album from which this one comes bears the same name as this tune, and has some other great pieces about Music City U.S.A. and the songwriter's life, making for a kind of singer-songwriter's "naked lunch at the end of the fork" musical memoir.
Lastly, every book requires an anthem as I pull it together.
This one had this rather bitter but winningly defiant song penned by the great Tom Russell:
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