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Poetic license

An interview with the lyrics of singer/songwriter Greg Brown

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It’s no surprise that a town as word-oriented as Missoula would turn out strong for a “reading” by one of the finest writers anywhere. Greg Brown’s singer/songwriter/folk-guitar-guy delivery includes a fat pinch of a je ne sais quoi potency that helps him positively light up the stage with his down-home midwestern brand of polished pow-pow.

I’ve seen more of Greg Brown than any other live performer. I have learned more from Brown than most college-level classes. So you can imagine my heart palpitations when his press person agreed to set up an interview with his Browness. “He’ll call you,” she said. “This weekend.”

Well, five hours before my deadline he still hasn’t called. And here I am with an article to write. And so many questions, perfectly framed, with no one to ask.

Wait. Maybe I can use Greg’s songs to get inside his head and soul, and find the answers to my questions all by myself. Yeah. From here on in, all of Brown’s answers to my questions will be direct quotes from his songs, contextualized by my educated fantasy. Here we go.

So, Greg, spring is finally here. I know you probably just want to spend most of your time fishing and gardening, but this must also be a great time to write love songs. And being as you are such a fine craftsman in this art, I want to ask you some things about your songwriting craft. First of all, where do you find your songs?

Well, it’s another happy April, for this old happy fool, and you move through my dreams, like a trout moves through a pool.

Gosh, Greg, that’s really sweet. Oh wait, I get it. The “you” to whom you just referred is the elusive elegance that is gliding through your “stream of consciousness.” Gotcha. Cool. You poets sure do speak in riddles. And you know, as a writer, I think I can relate to something that I’m sure you must experience: a certain postpartum phenomenon that happens when the words you write come to life with their own brand of free will. Like a child that you have birthed, of you but no longer under your control. Have you ever written any songs that you regret, that later came back to haunt you?

I’ve lost track of my mistakes like birds that fly around, and darken half my skies. I’ve sung what I was given, some is bad and some is good. I never did know from where it came. And if I had it all to do again, I’m not...sure I would...play the poet game.

Sure, sure. Who has time to keep track of our mistakes? It sure must be hard work, writing all those songs. I just think that spring helps move the juices. But still, it must take discipline too. How do you organize your life so as to maximize your creative juices?

Love calls like the wild birds, it’s another day. A spring wind blew my list of things to do away.

I see. So you’re the spontaneous type. That’s cool. But even folk stars like you can’t laze around all day. Creating material is work. Tell me about working.

Life is work. Day to day. Not one thing is here to stay. I like to hide out when I can. I’m a mid-west boy, I’m a big dumb man. I don’t get loud, I don’t get shook. Just sit in the corner and write in my notebook. And I get a little excited when my darling comes around.

Your darlin’? Whoa. That answers the question which more than one woman specifically requested me to ask you. It must be great when your darlin’ comes around, because it must get pretty lonely without her, right? Do tell.

The night was as cold as her lips were warm. The only thing I want to see today is her face six inches away. Summer was invented for her to wear that dress. I stare at her if she is or if she ain’t looking. She is silk, there and there and there. She always leaves too soon. She fills my cup with the milk of the moon. I am drunk on moon milk. I’m high in the air. I know a woman she is silk there and there and there.

OK, OK. Yer darlin’ must really be something. Thanks, Greg. You’re beautiful. And if the real Greg Brown happens to be reading these words, consider them my request for “Poet Game” on Sunday.

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