I’d describe myself as… having a hard time, to tell you the truth. My planet’s in trouble, and my country is in really disastrous trouble. They cancelled all my work, man, for the whole year. I’m not a rich guy and there’s a fair chance of me not being able to make the house payments. They operated on my hand, and it didn’t work, and I’m terrified I might not play guitar any more. Then in the middle of all that, one of my kids [Beckett Cypher, son of Melissa Etheridge], I didn’t raise him, but he’s my kid, kills himself. I don’t think he meant to. Real bad. Then we get down to me, and I have a couple of things that give me a lot of lift, man. My family still love me, and the music’s good. I’m making really good records.
Music changed me… I think I wanted to do music at first because I wanted people to like me. I was not a popular kid. As soon as I started singing it took over, it was the joy that you get. Right away it pinned me to the map, it just said: This is your path.
Away from music… I spend most of my time just being with my family. But I found I really like fly fishing. Any time you get out in nature and make yourself be quiet, that’s rich stuff.
My biggest vice is… well, any time I’m anywhere near a bookstore, there’s a problem. And Carter Vintage Guitars in Nashville is a really dangerous place, like a minefield. It’s got a Triple-O in there that’s been calling out my name for a long time. I don’t have the money, but I go by and visit every once in a while.
The last time I was embarrassed was… The last I was unbalanced? Embarrassed? The last time I tried to dance. You don’t wanna see me dance, man, trust me. I’m just terrible at it. It was probably to Steely Dan, they’re my favourite band.
My formal qualifications are… Jeez, almost none. I graduated from high school, did one year in a local city college here, then took off to hit the road. That’s how it works.
The last time I cried was… Oh, this morning. The kid. There’s no way round that one.
Vinyl, CD or MP3? … I like them all. I like really high res best of all. I think Neil [Young] was right about that. His [Pono format] certainly didn’t do it right, but as a visioneer he had the right idea.
I wasted a lot of fucking time... I just sat there and got wasted.
My most treasured possession is… was my boat, a 74-foot Alden schooner. I had it for 50 years and loved it more than any other physical object on the planet, but it’s gone now – streaming happened, all my record royalties went away, and I had to fucking sell it. I caught myself parking down by the harbour the other day, man, and just sitting in the car looking at where she used to be, just weeping, crying my eyes out. I’m not a very grown up guy, but yeah. So I think probably, now, my guitars.
The best book I’ve read is… I wouldn’t try to nail it down, but the most recent one was Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves. It’s the most inventive book of science fiction I’ve read in a long time. Real good, man!
Is the glass half-full or half-empty?… ooyaah! A philosophical question. It’s half-full or half-empty depending on your attitude. If you focus on your child’s face that you’re playing with, you don’t feel the dislocated shoulder that’s buggin’ ya. And, if you are looking for trouble from your wife, you’re gonna get it! Where you put that little flashlight beam of attention can affect how you work your world, a very great deal.
My greatest regret is… I have many. The greatest is, I wasted a lot of fucking time man, just getting blasted. I didn’t go anywhere with it, I just got wasted and sat there. I’m a good musician and I could have written five times as much music as I have done.
When we die… well, we don’t know. I’d like it if things were sort of roughly the way the Buddhists feel, I’d like it if your soul could go around again, and the energy gets re-used. I like how they look at things, how they treasure the world, and nature, how they see karma.
I would like to be remembered… by my work. If you really listen to it, you can hear everything. You can hear my struggle, my triumphs, my question, my sadness, my joy, everything I’ve ever been through, it’s in those songs. All of it.
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