By Steve Earle
I'm what they call a singer-songwriter.
That either means that my gift is primarily literary and that if I didn't
write songs no one would pay to hear me sing or that my songs are so weird
that no one else will sing 'em, leaving me no option except to do it myself
– or maybe both. Having been hyphenated at a tender age, I have rarely
covered other people's songs. I write a lot and my own studio records
usually contain some thread (sometimes so thin that only I can follow it)
that holds them together, somehow. Covers are out of the question
for me in that arena. Forget about the soundtracks and the tribute
records. Those types of projects have agendas of their own.
For me the covers that really count are the ones that I do in live shows
because they are the songs that I sing because I wish I had written them,
myself. The list of songs is relatively short considering how long
I've been doing this. The list of writers is even shorter:
Bill Monroe, Jimmy Driftwood, Johnny Cash, Joe Maphis, Rose Lee Maphis
and Max Fidler, Jagger and Richards, Lennon and McCartney, Bob Dylan, Bruce
Springsteen, Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman, Lowell George, Kurt Cobain,
Townes Van Zandt, Doug Sahm, Jay Farrar, Brain Henneman, Terry Adams and
I met Troop at the Lone Star Café
in New York in the summer of 1986. I was hammered when I got there
and in even worse shape when I left. When I came to on an airplane
halfway back to Nashville the next day, the only thing I could remember
was one amazing song call Little Sister. I never forgot it.
I called my manager the next day and had
him send me a copy of Troop's record and I discovered that not only were
there a lot of other great songs on it, but to add insult to injury he
was also a GREAT singer, which if you ask me is a slap in the face of the
whole hyphenated ethic. But it was Little Sister that made
me jealous. I learned it and I sang it for audiences and sometimes
while I was up there singin' it I would pretend, just for that three minutes,
mind you, that I'd written it myself.
Last year I taped a TV show with Troop
and some other songwriters sitting around in a circle singing songs and
Troop played Muhammed Ali... and I immediately went home and learned
That's two, Troop.
— Steve Earle, Indianapolis, IN ("I think"),