”Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers’ collection of interviews is a source book for songwriters, guitarists, and music lovers who have a need to dig deep into the roots of the music that has become a soundtrack for their lives.”—Patty Larkin
“Here they are–some of the songwriters I have most admired throughout my lifetime, all talking about what makes them want to write, how they write, where their writing comes from…. It’s amazing stuff… I highly recommend you pick this one up.”
—Jodi Krangle, The Muse’s News
“Rodgers is a masterful interviewer, and this collection is a good source of both musical ideas and glimpses into the creative process of some of the most influential musicians of our time.”—Michael Parrish, Dirty Linen
“Rock Troubadours is a wonderful resource for guitarists and songwriters everywhere. Whether talking to established masters (Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor) or still-developing young turks (Ani DiFranco, Dave Matthews, Ben Harper), Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers cuts through the BS to get the nitty-gritty about what makes these artists tick. It’s that rare book that truly illuminates the creative process.”
—Blair Jackson, author of Garcia: An American Life
Paul Simon | James Taylor | Joni Mitchell
Jerry Garcia and David Grisman | Indigo Girls | Chris Whitley
Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds | Ben Harper
Barenaked Ladies | Ani DiFranco
FROM THE INTRODUCTION
Cradled over the smooth wooden curves, fingertips on steel, eyes closed. Listening. It might be a groove, a particularly sweet chord change, an intriguing phrase, maybe a little twist of melody that just has something. The songwriter latches onto it, tries to understand its implications. What does it feel like? Where does it want to go? What sort of a song might grow from this tiny, fragile seed?
This moment of creation—and all the decisions and developments that follow it on the way to becoming a fully realized piece of music—is at the center of all the conversations in this book. Musicians, especially famous ones, are forever asked all sorts of questions about their love lives, their vices, and their battles with each other and with the industry, but they are almost never asked what it is they do as musicians—in songwriting, with their instruments, in the rehearsal room, in the recording studio, and on stage. The last thing they expect when a journalist comes to call is questions about their craft and inspirations—aspects of life and music that actually matter to them and that they want to share.
The artists collected in this book include both icons of the ’60s and ’70s who defined what it means to be a modern troubadour and some of the most compelling voices of the younger generation. Though their sounds and styles vary widely, all share an integrity and independence, a distaste for hype and fashion, and, most of all, an individual voice that shines through every note they sing and play. Conducting these interviews under the aegis of Acoustic Guitar magazine has been a dream come true for a musician/writer like me, as has the process of revisiting them for this book. Throughout these pages, I was able to include many revealing exchanges that could not be squeezed into the magazine’s limited space, so these conversations have a depth and breadth that they’ve never had before.
My meetings with these artists occurred over the course of nearly a decade, and there were, naturally, new albums and projects in the air that have since been replaced by newer ones. The sidebars that detail the guitars and gear the musicians were using and why—a major obsession of many artists—are particularly subject to change, since the technology of music making advances so quickly. But ultimately what matters is not the specifics of album titles and model numbers but how the artists conceive of their projects and choose their tools. From these snapshots in time, we get a glimpse of the cogs and wheels of their creative process.
All of these conversations have sent me back to the music of the stellar artists with fresh ears and fresh insights. I hope they do the same for you.
—Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers
Featured throughout Rock Troubadours is the photography of Jay Blakesberg, who accompanied me on most of these interviews and is behind the lens of so much great work in music magazines and on album covers.