John Rich and Bob Delevante
John Rich and Bob Delevante both live in my neighborhood; both write amazing songs; and both are friends of mine. In one recent Saturday night to Friday night span—I got to hear John Rich sing at his house on Saturday, I heard Gretchen Wilson sing there to, and Bob Delevante sing just down the street from my house at a place called Brown’s Diner with some superb young musicians called the Coal Men. Music City is a troubadour’s town.
There are three songs I love that tell all about it: "Troubadour" recently recorded by George Strait; "16th Avenue" recorded a long time ago by Lacy J. Dalton; and "The Pilgrim: Chapter 33" written and recorded by Kris Kristofferson.
And by “it “ I mean the Nashville songwriters life. I mean trying to tell the truth and making it rhyme, leaving it wide open comprehensible to anybody listening to a radio while they work. I mean working hard every day and never knowing if, not even when you’re going to get paid.
Committing yourself to writing songs for a living is a lot like getting married. It’s a richer or poorer, sickness and health kind of deal. And there’s no getting out of it like you never been in it. Some get out and want it back bad at least like they had at the best, and some get out and wish they had never, ever done it, and some get out and get right back in again, and some stay doing it but a little less spunkily, a little less confidently year after year proud for holding on, and some get up with more passion every day for all the days before knowing that good days and bad days will come and they will welcome everyone. Songwriting is a lot like marriage.
“I was a young troubador when I rode in on a song, and I’ll be an old troubadour when I’m gone.”
That’s me. That John. And That’s Bob. John Rich is brilliant song writer. The song that first proved that to me was Amarillio Sky. It is a precise portrait of a modern day Job talking back, faithfully, to God--fortified by a man-packed lunch and a thermos of coffee. Bob Delevante is a brilliant songwriter. You would have to be to start a song about a broke man looking for a bar that ends up three minutes and fifty seconds later with the image of daughter as porchlight, bringing him home. Sometimes it’s not the love we make, it’s the living embodiments of the love we made.
The song I rode into town on was called Reckless Night. The song that set me free from songwriting. I wrote it with my friend Matraca Berg, XXX’s and 000’s an American Girl. People ask me if I still write songs. I do. I just don’t do it as often or all day long. Or with as many people. Or quite as nakedly. But on occasion I do write.
Usually that occasion is a young pup crosses my path serving me a cup of coffee or a plate of food. When I meet a young pup who will make something new out of some of my old tricks, I write.
I met a young songwriter, Dan Rivera, at John Rich’s house. Rivera’s the lead singer of a group out of south Texas called Rio Grande. Their new single is Painted Pony Ride. Rivera’s got something to him.
“Some times you’ve got to stand back and watch ‘em burn it to the ground. Even though you built it, it’s a young man’s town.” Vince Gill sings that. Music City ain’t no painted pony ride. But if you hold on long enough to become an old troubadour you know it’s a sweet hard thing not to have been missed. And much of the best part is living among some of the most creative people on the planet like John Rich and Bob Delevante playing for free in their neighborhood.