Interview with Buddy Mondlock
at Boodles Opera House
January 16, 2000

Buddy Mondlock

Angela: I'm upstairs at Bodles Opera house and talking with Buddy Mondlock. That was a great show Buddy. Thanks.

Buddy: Thanks Angela

Angela: You must be very flattered that so many writers have been recording your stuff.

Buddy: It means a lot to me that someone who writes their own songs takes the time to learn one of mine. Yeah, it’s a good feeling.

Angela: I'm wondering if you have some favorite lines. I wrote a couple while I listened to you tonight: "The solid ground surprised us when we fell" I think that's just a great line. And of course: "I could no more stop dreaming than make them all come true" And your line, "When the love spilled out they called it art" Do you have a favorite line, do you say "I love it everytime I sing that?" "I wrote that!"

Buddy: I don’t know if I have a (one) favorite line but actually in that song No Choice… I'm proud of that song…there's a line in there about being out on a limb, it's hard to think of the lyric now.

Angela: Out of place

Buddy: Yeah, out of place. How does it go? "There was a beautiful fire inside of him as he balanced way out on that limb could have burned right through that branch so thin but he never really had no choice." That's one of my favorites that I've written anyway.

Angela: There's just so many, I mean your songs drip with great lines. Do you feel like you have no choice but to create and write? Could you do another thing for money?

Buddy: I probably ought to be able to answer yes to that because there is not guarantees in this business about making a living, but its all I ever really wanted to do for a living. I feel really fortunate that I'm able so far to hang in there, keep doing it and be able to pay the rent.

Angela: So your song, "No Choice" is a little autobiographical, perhaps?

Buddy: Well I'd like to think there's some of me in there too. I really didn't write about myself.

Angela: The power for me in that song, is that when all of us have the thing that we are passionate about it is almost like there isn't a choice. It's just so strong. That’s what you wanna do. Here's Buddy Mondlock and his tune, No Choice.

----------------- No Choice ----------------------

Angela: Do you have several songs where you actually in a woman's voice. Tonight you sang the tune "she didn't really want a baby", even though you are singing in third person.

Buddy: I am singing in 3rd person, yeah.

Angela: But there is a closeness there as you are talking about her about understanding her.

Buddy: Yeah, its more of an omniscient sort of point of view. I'm trying to get inside characters thinking and feeling

Angela: Do you have a role model for that or do you just imagine that woman?

Buddy: I'm imagining but it's also based on my own experiences and talking with people that I've known really well, or even been in love with. I draw from what I know and from real people that I know.

Angela: And imagine what they are going through?

Buddy: Uh huh. I think its really important for a songwriter to really make an effort to empathize, not just to feel their own feelings but to try to empathize and try to understand what other people might feel about stuff too. I think those songs are more interesting in a lot of ways because, for one, it brings the writers themselves a new richness of an experience - to be able to try to put yourself in someone else's shoes. I think that is a really valuable thing for a human being to be able to do -or to try and do, and I think its interesting for other people too to have a voice come out of you that is not necessarily your voice. I really try to write a lot about characters and not always about just me. For me, writing songs is akin to writing short stories. So I love not writing from the first person and finding characters and sort of inventing them and fusing them with different kinds of problems and emotions and ways of dealing with it.

------- NO Baby --------

Angela: Tell me about Nashville where you live. A tree fell on your house or something tell me about that"

Buddy: Yeah, actually a tornado came through Nashville about a year and a half ago and Carol and I weren't home. Carol is my girlfriend and singing partner, Carol Elliott.

Angela: I'm going to ask you about her in a minute

Buddy: OK Carol and I were doing a show in Texas but Michael McNevin was staying at our place while we were gone.

Angela: Oh, so you weren't even there

Buddy: We weren't even there. Right before the show Michael called and said "A tornado just came through town and went right over your house. A big tree fell down and has fallen on the garage and another big tree came down in the front yard and has fallen right through the fence you just finished building and boy he was great. Anybody who knows Michael knows he is like a big kid and don't think of Michael as being the one to be in charge and step up when you need someone to be in charge and look after stuff but that’s exactly what he did. He was there, he supervised the guys taking the tree down from the roof and made all the calls that he needed to make and cleaned the debris, he was just terrific. I can't say enough about how great Michael McNevin was in an emergency.

Angela: Great

Buddy: He was really the guy on the spot.

-------------michael ? -----------

Angela: Well when Hurricanes or Tornadoes aren't going through what is typical life like? Do you have a B and B or a songwriter's circle.

Buddy: Yeah, Carol used to have a boarding house there until very recently.

Angela: Until the tree hit it?

Buddy: No, until just about 2 months ago. She's got a house and then a garage in the back that the tree fell on, it's all fixed up again now. She had been staying in the garage. It is renovated and then renting out the rooms in the big house to songwriters, mostly songwriters but lately to some Vanderbilt students too. So yeah, over the last 5 years or so she has been renting out rooms to songwriters and a lot of very interesting people come through there. New people come into town to try to make it: Michael Peterson big country star now stayed there for a while. Some other folks ended up getting big cuts, Garth Brook cuts, that kind of thing. We always felt like it was good luck to stay at Carol's place. But just recently she has finally decided to reclaim the big house and actually live in her own house again. Its great she is really loving it. So the boarding house is no more for now.

Angela: Would you talk about Carol and a tune of hers.that you really love? What could we air right now in the interview?

Buddy: You could play "Message from Walter".

Angela: Ok wanna do a little intro for it?

Buddy: OK, well this is a song Carol wrote, after our friend Walter Hyatt, after we discovered that he was on the plane that went down in the Everglades. She had gotten the call late at night and was obviously very upset about it. She lit a candle she was just listening to music and crying and thinking about Walter and the light in the bathroom started to flicker on and off. It had never done that before. She fooled with it and got it to stop. Then it started up again. Finally she just turned it off. She had that candle going and finally went to sleep. She woke up the next morning and the candle was still going. This was just a little votive candle that was supposed to burn for about 3 hours and it was burning 9 or 10 hours later…

Angela: I've heard this story somewhere…

Buddy: She went to church and came back and it was still burning. Later on she thought about these things and she had a really strong feeling that Walter was there with her just trying to kind of tap her on the shoulder and say hey I'm ok I'm all right I'm in an ok place. That’s where the song came from. Its called "Message From Walter"

Angela: And this is Carol Elliott

---------CAROL--------- Message From Walter

Angela: When you want to play near your house where do you guys play?

Buddy: At the Bluebird Café.

Angela: Is there like a work night, writing night, swap night? A night that is less of a show and more of a work environment or not really there.

Buddy: I'm not sure exactly what you are getting at. A workshop?

Angela: Is it always a featured act and that’s who sings?

Buddy: At the Bluebird?

Angela: Or is there a night where people travelling through may play a few songs, you might play,

Buddy: At the Bluebird, because it has gotten so famous now, the night where you will have a variety of different people doing three songs a piece-

Angela: Its still booked.

Buddy: It’s a Sunday night it is booked 6 months in advance, or a year in advance and people audition for it a year before. It is kind of the way that people start to work their way up into playing a regular night there. But it has gotten very involved. One nice thing that happens in Nashville is the 6 chair picking party that Mike Williams runs at his house. Any folks, who have been to Kerrville, the folk festival in Kerrville, Texas, will probably know about Mike William's campfires. There are always some of the best songwriters and pickers in the campground who end up at camp cuisine song circle. Because that was so much fun for him, when he moved to Nashville several years ago, he decided to start having a regular gathering.

Angela: He kept it alive

Buddy: You sit in a circle and trade songs. He picks 6 people out each Wednesday and then take one off per month so that would give everybody a break.

Angela: That’s what I was asking for. Do you need to, when you are writing, have a forum to bounce it off people?

Buddy: Well it really helps.

Angela: Cuz you can't just go from your living room and writing, to the Bluebird Saturday night. I was wondering, what are the clubs in between.So I guess Mike Williams is one.

Buddy: That is one place to try out new stuff. There are a couple of other really nice clubs for writers in Nashville, like Douglas Corner Café and Radio Café over in East Nashville a newer place I've really seen some great shows there. Pierce plays there all the time.

Angela: He spoke in this very spot very highly of you.

Buddy: Ahhh. Well I can't say enough about Pierce. HE is just amazing .He is one of my favorite songwriters.


Can you comment a bit on the different hat of songwriter and performer?

Buddy: Well it all kind of comes together on the stage. But you can be a songwriter without being a performer that’s for sure. The process is very different, and writing and performing although there are elements in common You actually are creating something new each time, even if you sing the same song over and over again. Everytime you sing it you are creating something new in the way that you sing it and how you are presenting it to people how you are feeling it when you are singing it

Angela: So you wouldn't be happy just being a songwriter?

Buddy: I don't think I would. I really came to music as a performer.first, and then as a songwriter I wanted to learn how to play guitar and I already was singing for people and I mostly just played songs that I had heard off records and loved. Later on…well I started writing early but I didn't include that it wasn't a big part of what I did. Later on it became more and more important to me to perform and sings my own songs. Now I hardly ever play anything actually that I haven't written myself. Every once in a while, and usually those are by friends of mine rather than off of a record.

Angela: If you could hand pick one of your tunes and somebody to perform it, what would the song be and who would the artist be?

Buddy: That's a tough one. I don't know.

Angela: If you had a wand, wouldn't that be powerful?

Buddy: That'd be great

Angela: Yeah I wish some of these questions when I get answers could come true, like Susan Werner wanted Richard Thompson to play on her next album. Just hearing what people's wishes are…

Buddy: I'd love to hear Joan Baez sing "Cats of the Coliseum" or Richard Thompson sing "No choice. Actually when I wrote no choice I'd been listening to Richard Thompson. I was kind of inspired by some of his rhythms and melodies and stuff like that and just the way he kind of chews on words helped me get in a frame of mind to write that song "No Choice" That would be very cool.

Angela: Yeah that would

--------CATS OF THE COLESEUM-------

Angela: I'd love to know what your current piece or segment or core of an idea is for your next tune. Do you have a little gem of some thought that’s not anywhere yet?

Buddy: Ah, gosh, no. I won't know until I sit down with a piece of blank paper what its gonna be.

Angela: Do you have certain things, coffee, tea, wine, stack of blank paper or a certain routine?

Buddy: Well I've got a stack of notebooks, I use yellow legal pads a lot. Recently I just bought this big fat spiral notebook that I'm trying to fill up. I've got little snatches and notes and little things scattered around but mostly Ill just sit down in front of that blank piece of paper and think about what's going on or just try and empty my head and see what comes out. Just try and get some kind of image or phrase or some kind of like couplet that seems like it could be something or makes me feel something. And I take it from there something that seems unusual or different really seems to spark some emotion. OK let's see where this goes what else can I write about this

Angela: Now when you say lets see where this goes for you what does that mean?

Buddy: It means I don't know ahead of time what the songs going to be about in a lot of cases. I might have a whole chorus or a verse done before I really know what I'm writing about certain parts of it will be apparent to me

Angela: We probably do the wrong thing in teaching. You know I'm in education. We say, "We are going to do this today" We start with the answer. We are going to write a song today about jealousy GO.

Buddy: Well it can be done, I mean obviously you can do that but I've just found from my own experience that I'm more likely to write something I like if I don't put any boundaries on it, at the beginning at least. After a while, buy the end of the song there's all kinds of perimeters that you have to stick to.

Angela: To form it

Buddy: The form, and subject matter, it all has to tie together in a certain way. At the very beginning I do much better if I can just …whatever happens happens.

Angela: Do you do a fair amount of interviews with radio stations?

Buddy: I love to do this kind of thing, so I try to whenever I'm on tour or whenever anybody asks.

Angela: David Roth gave me a great idea, to ask, what is the most silliest or obnoxious or annoying question that you've been asked. You don't have to identify by whom. Maybe you don't have anything.

Buddy: The typical question that is sort of the cliché question is "What do you write first the music or the words?"

Angela: The lyrics or the words. That was always a joke.

Buddy: Yeah the lyrics or the words. People often say, do you start with the music or start with the lyrics

Angela: And you say yes.

Buddy: Yes, it depends on the song

Angela: I don't think I've ever asked that because I would think that would be annoying. There is just a bigger idea at stake.

Buddy: It just comes up so often that's all.

Angela: Do people ask you - something I am interested in, and that is who you listen to? You get in you car with a long drive, do you listen to news? Silence? Other writers? Your current demo?

Buddy: All those things. I've been doing books on tape a lot. Carol and I when we are travelling go to the library and get books on tape. I just finished F Scott Fitzgerald "The Great Gatsby".

Angela: That’s a great idea!

Buddy: And I've got CDS I was listening to Pierce the other day, and Richard Julian who I played with tonight, on the way up here. Who else do I listen to? Whatever is current, whatever bunch I grabbed and put in the car that time.

Angela: I'll ask you something I asked Pierce because I'm interested. If you were booking a songwriters festival and you could have several dozen people play and you could just be in the audience like you were tonight with Richard, who would you have play?

Buddy: Well lets see Id have Pierce for one. Pierce Pettis, Richard Julian, Frank Tadeso, I love Gorka too, I'd love to have Gorka there, Shawn Colvin, Darryl Scott. Who else have I been listening to? Oh, um Tom Pasado Roa and oh…I'm spacing out on this name, he wrote with Tom , "Christmas at the Ashram." Darn it, Ill think of it,

Angela: Not Guy Clark- no that was Christmas on the Isthmus that’s what I'm thinking of.

Buddy: I would…Guy would be there too and Townes if we could bring him back.

Angela: There's a great question!

Buddy: Yeah

Angela: Who would you bring back for your festival?

Buddy: Townes and Walter and Steve Goodman. Mike Jordan. You probably never heard Mike Jordan stuff.

Angela: I never heard Mike Jordan.

Buddy: I'd have Tom Dundee at my festival and I'm still spacing out with this guy's name. And he's great. Chris Rosser.

Angela: Oh Ok. Archeology.

Buddy: Yeah, Archeology. I'm probably forgetting a bunch.

Angela: Yeah, that’s kind of almost an unfair question. Well, thanks so much.

Buddy: Tom Waits! I' put Tom in there too.

Angela: You re going to be thinking of people on your drive.

Buddy: (snaps fingers) yeah, shoulda said…

Angela: Tell Carol I play her extensively.

Buddy: I'd put Carol Elliott in that festival!

Angela: Well, I figured you would. I'd love for her to have a new CD. Is she working on one?

Buddy: There's talk about it yeah. She hasn’t started recording yet, but she has a bunch of songs. They are really good.