Songwriter extraordinaire Mary Gauthier is hitting the road this summer to play shows in the southwest and the UK.
She’s also working on some new songs and teaching songwriting with her friend Darrell Scott. She took some time last month before the long Memorial Day weekend to talk to us about her craft.
Q: You’re out on tour again next month, what else is going on in your life and music?
A: I’m teaching next week, I have a songwriting class that I’m teaching with my friend Darrell Scott. We’re here in Nashville teaching writers how to find their ”writer’s voice.” We’ve got about forty students coming from all over the world. That starts on Monday and goes ’til Friday.
I don’t teach people how to come up with ideas, I teach them how to find their own original voice once they have their ideas. So basically, the process of showing people the way to their own truths. It’s a painful process, it involved getting rid of all the posturing and lies and trying to look good. It’s eliminating the false to get to the truth, like chiseling a piece of stone to get to the sculpture inside it.
Q: What’s the one song you’ve always wanted to cover but never have?
A: My thing is pretty much my thing. I never had to play in a bar band or do the things that most musicians have to do, coming up. I just picked up the guitar and started writing and got to go and play my own songs. So, I’ve never really done covers. I have my thing that I do and basically that’s what I do. I admire lots of songs but I wouldn’t want to butcher them, I pretty much have a niche that I’m capable of performing in – I don’t consider myself a musician, I consider myself a songwriter.
Q: You spent a lot of your youth in in Louisiana – does that carry over into your songwriting?
A: Well, everything that a person does through their life shows up in their writing, so yeah.
Q: And you had a restaurant in Boston, the Dixie Kitchen. What types of food are your favorites?
A: I like spicy foods, whatever nationality puts some spice on it, that’s what I like. Asian food, Indian food, Cajun food, Thai food, hot stuff.
Q: What got you from the restaurant business to music?
A: I basically decided that the restaurant business was going to kill me, so maybe the will to live. The restaurant business is very, very hard, it makes the music business look easy. It’s hard when you’re working 12, 14 hours a day, every day on your feet.
Q: What’s the one thing you can’t live without on your tour bus/van?
A: Part of being on tour is learning how to adapt to the situation, so you keep that list really short. I’m very adaptable.
Q: What types of music are you currently listening to?
A: My friend Slaid Cleaves just put out a wonderful record that I think is fantastic, I’ve been listening to that lately. Mostly people send me their records and that’s how I get new music, people hand it to me. I’m not actively looking for it anymore.
Q: If you could sit down for an hour any songwriter, alive or dead, who would it be?
A: I’d sure love to have a cup of tea with Leonard Coehn.
Q: Who else did you listen to and learn from growing up?
A: Woody Guthrie. I wouldn’t want to sit down with Bob Dylan, it’d be too scary. But I admire him. Sometimes, when you really admire an artist, it’s best not to know them, it’s best not to meet them. I don’t long for a personal relationship with the artists I admire, I like to admire them from where I am. I don’t want to go into their lives, they give me enough of their lives in their songs.
Q: Is there anything else people listening to your music should know?
A: No, this is good.
Visit her website here