Author Tim Cagle is back for another visit to the eBook Review Gal website. His author interview was so interesting and well received by readers I invited him back. This time Tim is sharing an author guest post that focuses on his music career.
I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool
by Author Tim Cagle
I always think of legend Barbara Mandrell’s hit song when I am asked, “Why would a medical malpractice lawyer from Boston write a novel about two country songwriters from Texas?” The answer is simple. Trying malpractice cases and writing songs are vastly diverse, but have one major thing in common. Words are what matter most.
I’m a songwriter and my book “Whispers From The Silence” tells the story of the time I shut down my law practice in my early 30’s and left for Nashville. My big break never broke and I discovered I would always be a songwriter trapped in a lawyer’s body.
People usually ask why country. It’s because the melodies are as stimulating as an ice-cold longneck, and the lyrics are as soothing as comfort food. Songwriting legend Harlan Howard once said the secret to a great country song is, “Three chords and the truth.”
I grew up in the 50’s with rock and roll. When Elvis appeared, I wanted a guitar like most kids wanted a puppy. Unfortunately, we were too poor for such a luxury. I found a poker game during my sophomore year in high school, won five straight pots and took away enough cash to get a cheap acoustic.
In college, rock music was spreading like a prairie fire until Lyndon Johnson escalated the troop levels in Viet Nam and the music turned ominous. Country music was almost universally hated. Most lyrics were mourning crop failures and binge drinking, while artists sounded like they had sinus infections. Then, rock and roll died, but people refused to let go. Today, we old rockers are sitting in one, listening to country songs that could be a clone for rock’s reincarnation.
The second reason I love country is personal. My father died a few weeks before I was born and I grew up as a poor kid. When I was 15, the only summer job I could find was in a town an hour away. I stayed in a dumpy old hotel with a group of elderly residents, in a run-down room with a pull-chain light and a bare, unshaded light bulb. I had no car, no friends and no outlets.
My only entertainment was a cheap transistor radio my girlfriend gave me. After twelve-hour workdays, I spent nights alone in my room listening to the only station I could find, one that played country songs. It was the first time sad lyrics triggered my emotions, and my throat grew tight as I listened. When a song finished, my sorrow felt purged.
That October, my grandmother died. As I sat in church, holding back tears, an image appeared of that stark hotel room and sad country songs filled my mind. After the funeral, I broke down in the car and bit my bottom lip, but hot, bitter tears kept flowing like raindrops trickling down a windowpane. When we got home, I jumped out and vowed no one would ever see me cry again. Then, I went on the attack, shouting that country songs were harsh and cruel, before music whispered in my ear for the first time. It told me to me to write my own lyrics so I could cry inside.
Today, my only connection to music is teaching guitar to my neighbor’s teenage daughters. They refer to my repertoire as “Civil War campfire songs” and love Taylor Swift. I combined the lyrics from Taylor’s “Stay, Stay, Stay” with those of Maurice Williams, whose biggest 60’s hit was called “Stay”, and taught them a revised song. Blending those lyrics showed them how music changes while essentially staying the same.
My time with them convinced me this is what songwriter Lori McKenna meant when she talked about helping who’s next in line, in the hit she wrote for Tim McGraw, ‘Humble and Kind’. That’s why I have found whether I’m acting as a songwriter, lawyer, teacher or just a guy, words are what matter most. As Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb of the BeeGees once told us in their mega-hit “Words”, lyrics are the only thing we have that can take our hearts away.
Tim Cagle is an author, musician, and practicing attorney who loves connecting with readers and other authors, via my website and on social media: