Back in January, worn out from having spent a year on tour and facing a new album’s release and another year spent mostly on a bus, away from the comforts of home and family, I decided to try to write a book. I had made a couple of stabs in that direction before (as well as a couple of screenplays) but had so far failed to complete one. The thing is, I love to write on the road. I write most every day out there. It’s usually not songs, as completing a song amid all of the noise, distractions and music blasting on the bus is very difficult (I do often start songs there that get finished later) but writing non-musical compositions comes pretty easy for me out here and it sure passes the time. Beside, I had an idea for a story I wanted to write and it started coming very easily. By our third month on the road I already had a pretty firm outline of what I wanted and several chapters that I felt really good about.
I was calling my book “Slam Dancing in the Pews”, named after a cassette that Virgil Kane had recorded in 1992 when Cooley and I were playing shows under that name after the break up of Adam’s House Cat. The book was basically half-assed fictionalization of that very turbulent period of my life. I was 27, my band broke up, I got divorced and left my hometown to live in Memphis. My car got stolen, our band’s truck got stripped and I fell in love. I fell out with my family (who I was very, very close to) and had my heart broken. I seriously pondered killing myself several times but instead wrote literally over 500 songs in a three-year period. A time when I reinvented myself artistically and experienced a sort of rebirth that led to a lot of the things I have done in the last two decades.
My book would sort of tell that story, but interspersed with lyrics from that period of my life, as well as new song lyrics either set in that time or from the point of view of various characters from the book. The structure would be chapter / song / chapter / song and so on. If the book was coming fast, the songs were coming even easier. Then the booked stopped coming. Someday I may want to tell that story, but timing is everything and this just isn’t the time for it.
The songs, however continued to pour out, taking a few left turns and then morphing into its own thing. Most of this album comes from that short period of time between February and June of 2011. The songs begin in the period that the book was set in, but don’t end there, as they really just were the impetus for writing about the life I am living now and contrasting it with the troubled times of two decades ago.
I called it Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance and decided that spring to record it as a solo album. I could clearly hear in my head exactly how I wanted every song to sound and made a list of who I wanted to play on each one. It is in some ways the most personal album I’ve ever made. There has always been a lot of me in all of the albums we’ve done, but usually semi-disguised as character sketches and stories, but the first person narrative in this one is pretty firmly rooted in autobiography, albeit in two dramatically differing time periods.