There was this one gig where a Bodark had to spend the night in jail afterwards. Let's just say he/she mighta had a bit too much of the complimentary booze from the show and struggled to recite the backwards alphabet for Buford T. Justice on his/her way home. But, Hey! We got a song out of it! This incident was the inspiration for our tune "D-R-U-N-K," which we later recorded for our first record, in which we tell the story in brief while providing some lessons on reverse-alphabetting.
Some songs do that. They song-ify a personal experience. Like the title track from our latest album, Side Effects. It was inspired by another alcohol-related situation, only this time on the part of an audience who'd been guzzling gallons of green beer all day at a St Pat's shindig. This incident ended on the verge of a massive bar brawl (read all about that HERE). So we figured a song needed to be written as a sort of pharmaceutical warning about the dangerous side effects of mixing alcohol and hootenanny music.
As the song goes:
Pharmaceutical use of music is effective
So listening with caution is best
There are certain risks with the benefits
Revealed in clinical tests
"Down & Out in WF," another one from the Side Effects album, is about my hometown of Wichita Falls, a land of irony and extremes - hot and cold, droughts and floods, oil money and dog patch, and ginormous tornadoes. There's a reference to when the Dallas Cowboys relocated their practices there to keep players away from the temptations of living in Big D, only to find that WF offers its own opportunities for trouble, down on "Flood Street" and thereabouts. And there's references to Dr. Phil who spent some time there, to "fly boys" from the air base, and to when WF recycled its sewage water during a dry spell.
Now, you need to know that some tunes are only partially autobiographical. Shelly insists that "Won't Stop Till I'm Dead" is NOT about her parents in the junk yard. It's more about never giving up, even when the world seems bent on slowing you down. And through the years, this little string band has surely made that its motto, with line-up changes, and pandemics. And gut-wrenching illness, as was the case with Shelly when she performed this at our Live Americana release. Even when you're sick as a dog, "the show must go on."
"The Bodark Song" is kinda autobiography, as far as a tall-tale can be. It mythologizes how we got started as a band, like the old Devil-at-the-crossroads deal. The "Banjo and mando picking wild and free / Two critters 'neath a bodark tree" part - Well, that's a reference to me and Jason Bell launching this here hootenanny back in the day, later joined by our first bassist, Brian Kelleher (the Devil, with his fondness for "the lower register"), and Shelly (the Kansas fiddler with ruby shoes). And it's a tip-of-the-cap to all you Bodarks who joined us along the way: "Wo-ho, won't ya come-a come along / Sing with us our Bodark Song..."
"Life Americana," on our debut and live albums, is steeped in folklore, too, as it takes on the mystery of "what's over yonder" in the fledgeling days of our country, where there were no flags or borders. But ya know, "Maps ain't made by those who stay behind." If there's anything personal about this one, it's that it serves as a sort of anthem for our approach to music - Americana that is more of a state of mind than a genre with borders.
Some tunes may sound specific and personal, but are meant to be metaphor. Like "Long-Gone Suzie," in which a fella living on a mountain top has lost his girl who prefers the valley life. Well, that's really a nod to anyone who is separated from a sweetheart because they live in different worlds, with different values - in this case, country versus city life.
In a way, all songs song-ify something personal in us. It's just that some do it more literally, and others more metaphorically. But I suppose the best kind of songs are those that touch on something personal to anyone listening to them. So, Hey - If you think one is about you, then it just might be.
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Because "Maps ain't made by those who stay behind."