Emmylou Harris on universal messages in songs

AG Emmylou Harris

I believe that a good song, like a good book or a good film or anything, has to have a universal message. It has to talk about the human story that we all share. The details might be different, but the heart of the story is something that hopefully everyone can relate to.—Emmylou Harris

From the August 2015 issue of Acoustic Guitar. Read the full interview here.

2015 Sammy Award for Best Americana

Almost There album cover

Almost There is here! 

Featuring “Eight Days in January,” with Rani Arbo on fiddle and harmony vocals

“Spot-on work from an American wordsmith”Patty Larkin

“Mind candy for the listener to chew on”—Syracuse New Times

“Deft commentary…a call to be ornery but sympathetic—cautionary but optimistic.”Kenneth Pattengale (the Milk Carton Kids)

“Genre-defying folk rock”NYS Music

“Understated raw beauty”Minor 7th

Learn more about the album.

Norman Blake on writing new songs that sound traditional

AG 271 Norman Blake

I know a lot of old ones and I’ve done a lot of old ones. Sometimes if you feel inclined to write something, you take something that you’re comfortable with. A lot of people have said that my stuff sounds traditional. Down through the years in anything I wrote, I always wanted to try to write something that would be as good as the old stuff that I knew. That was my guideline. I didn’t want to write something I’d consider substandard.—Norman Blake

From an interview in Acoustic Guitar magazine, July 2015.

Joey Ryan of the Milk Carton Kids on writing intuitively

Milk Carton Kids AG

Every song that I ever started is about something. I know what it’s about and what I’m trying to say, and I know at the end of the song whether I’ve said it. I’ve always been a hyper-rational person and also songwriter, and Kenneth [Pattengale] is exactly the opposite. He comes from this really intuitive, nonrational, more emotional side. When you write the way that he writes, also in my opinion the way Joe Henry writes, it has the effect of giving the listener a more direct experience of the thing that inspired you to write the song. Rather than telling the listener what it was, you actually give them the experience.—Joey Ryan

From an interview with the Milk Carton Kids in Acoustic Guitar magazine, July 2015.

José González on writing lyrics

Jose Gonzalez AG

Usually when I have a song [idea], I get a feeling of how many verses I want to have, how many choruses and bridges. Then I know the length of the song, and I get a sense of how many syllables I need and where they should rhyme to make it sound musical. I have brainstorming sessions where I write down words that could fit into the song, and with those I find synonyms. I make lists of words, basically, and make sure to have words that rhyme. With these sheets of words and sentences, it’s easier to brainstorm a finished lyric.—José González

From an interview in the June 2015 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.

Kenneth Pattengale of the Milk Carton Kids on Almost There

At first glance, Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers’ Almost There appears steeped in the tradition of the narrative song—and framed through the lens typical of that tradition. But upon further inspection you’ll notice an immediacy and relevance to the contemporary human experience that often escapes our brethren who utilize the same framework. Where that utility meets the stories within, you’ll find a deft commentary that we might all observe: a call to be ornery but sympathetic—cautionary but optimistic. Every bit personal as expansive, Rodgers has identified, perhaps, what are noteworthy signposts along the way. Ones we would all be well-served to pay heed.
Kenneth Pattengale