After more than four decades in music and a plethora of songs he wrote for himself and artists like Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash, Keith Urban, and others, Rodney Crowell decided it was time to put together a book featuring some of his work.
He says, “A year ago, I just figured I should have a songbook. And I did it somewhat selfishly, honestly. I put the songs I wanted up front, not necessarily the most famous or famous due to radio exposure or something.” I went with what I’m proud of writing from my standard as a songwriter.”
The end result is a beautifully illustrated book on the coffee table displaying the lyrics of many of his songs, some in his own handwriting, along with the notes he took while writing them.
“Most of my lyrics for the past several years are on the computer and those before them have been printed in these foldable books that I own. But I also still have over 30 notebooks with a few pages of scribbling and first and second drafts.”
In the book he shares the dramatic story behind some of the songs and most of his early days in music. There are many, many personal photos.
A GRAMMY Award-winning artist and songwriter, he has written 15 #1 songs and is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. “Word for Word” takes a look at some of his most famous songs such as “I Couldn’t Leave You If I Tried”, “Leave Louisiana in broad daylight”, “Somewhere Tonight” and others.
He also wrote “Shame on the Moon” recorded by Bob Seger, Long Hard Road by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and “Making Memories of Us” by Keith Urban.
The book highlights his many songwriting collaborations with artists such as Emmylou Harris, Guy Clark, Rosanne Cash, and others.
“Emilo is my sister from another mother,” Crowell says. “We have a brother/sister relationship dating back to our twenties. We are good friends.”
The two met in the 1970s and Harris Crowell later hired as guitarist, harmony singer, and coordinator for her band.
He wrote and recorded a number of songs with Roseanne Cash, both before and after their marriage. The two share four daughters who have grown up and are constantly connected through music. I wrote a piece for the book.
“One thing I say a lot in public about Roseanne is that our marriage was successful that just ended. We parted very amicably. In fact, I’ve introduced her to her husband and to this day, I’m proud of the fact that I did. He’s a good man. My wife and I were talking that day And she said, “You know, I love Roseanne. That’s just a very honest thing.”
Crowell also had a close relationship with Roseanne’s father, Johnny Cash.
“I came into his orbit as a young man trying to prove myself and I think he was taken aback by me. I wanted to be respected as my man and sometimes I would do stupid things. He would just smile or put me in my shoes, he knew what I was doing. But I think he recognized the level of work I was up to. Produce it, and we had a good friendship.”
After more than forty years as a singer and songwriter, Crowell is still hard at work making music. He also shares what he knows. He recently completed his third songwriting camp which brings aspiring songwriters from around the world to Nashville to learn the craft from some of its masters. (The camp will be held again next summer.)
He hopes his book will also inspire those interested in writing songs. He just launched a book tour that will take him across the country to promote Word for Word.
He is also working on a new album that will be released sometime next year. At 72, Crowell has no plans to slow down, perhaps even picking up the pace a bit.
“I work more now than I did when I was young,” he says. “I jokingly tell my wife that I did so much wrong when I was younger, and I don’t do it anymore. She just laughs. But I’ve come to an age where time is limited, and I don’t have much time to lose unless I can rephrase it as part of the creative process. So I still do it, I still do it all, maybe less in the public eye, but I still do it, and I enjoy it more.”