Cities, and especially hotels, have their own energy built into them. We attach meaning and memory to everything we experience, and there are a few tour stops we have been back to so many times, they have taken on their own history and glow, regardless of how they might seem to an outsider.
Fort Collins, Greybull, Casper, Cheyenne, Lawrence, Winter Park, Kingston Springs, Barnsdall, Fayetteville, Wichita. Not major markets but full of magic nonetheless. We have had the honor of striking up the band in well over 300 cities now, ranging in population from 242 in Keya Paha, Nebraska, to Los Angeles, population God only knows.
Now, I’d love to tell you I’ve written tunes in some fancy, romanticized places where my heroes stayed, like Chateau Marmount in LA or the Chelsea Hotel in NY. Nope. I tend to write where we can afford multiple rooms and I can be alone, stocking the mini fridge with whatever I find at Target and sticking up Christmas lights all over the mirror. If you are writing well, you lose track of your surroundings anyway. When it comes to the city and motel that has given me the most songs, Lincoln, Nebraska, at the Super 8 takes the cake.
Why Lincoln? What gives the muse room to breathe in this cheap little dive out on a windy highway? The area has no sidewalks, always seems overcast, surrounded by payday lenders and huge truck repair shops. Old railroad tracks and huge buildings that manufacture who knows what.
Lincoln is a place that the band played early on, and we used to get stuck at this modest motel for days at a time. It was the very first place where the club bought us all our own rooms (and despite loving my band, nothing helps a writer like some privacy and some peace and quiet).
This gem of a club in Lincoln is called the Zoo Bar. Some of the best players in the WORLD stop through, traveling from east to west. You name an old blues player, and they have chipped the paint off that wall with their amps glowing amber. When the band was living in Fort Collins, Colorado, the Zoo was a natural first stop on the tours to get our sea legs back. I imagine having the first-week tour energy probably helped get some songs done as well.
There were a couple of times where the band has gone back to Wichita to stay with family for free, and I have stayed on at the Super 8 to hide out and write—including Halloween a few years back. I got four songs done in one weekend. You get a little lonely; fall starts to creep in; you open up Logic on your laptop, and you are off. I travel with some mics and software, and of course, there are always guitars and basses on the road. On a two-day run back in 2010, I actually scored a Dodge commercial in one of those rooms, too. That commercial ended up paying for a lot of other rooms down the line.
Over the years, we have gotten more and more busy on the road. Off days are harder to find and to block out. This makes it hard for songs to get written in one shot, and it makes me protect my time at home even more. It is very hard to zone out and channel and get in that mellow, confident, and creative space when calls are flooding in or you have to be somewhere in 30 minutes. Once in a while, you get an idea fully formed that can be knocked out really quickly, but that is the exception to the rule. Usually, it requires a little time to get from the start to the finish. I am not a fan of piecing things together, either; tunes are best when you can dig them out of the ground whole.
I obsessively collect motel room keys and store them in old cigar boxes in my library (we stole this trick from Micky and The Motorcars down in Texas). I would imagine someday when someone goes through my stuff, they are gonna find more cheap Super 8 keys with pizza delivery numbers on them than anything else. And while I love Four Seasons—Westin and all the fancy stuff with bathrobes and mints on the pillows—Super 8 just makes me feel like it’s time to find a legal pad and get to work…
The following tunes have been written top to bottom, as well as countless scraps that didn’t go anywhere. If you would like to read these, you can find them at https://www.goodingmusic.com/words/lyrics/.
Odds and Ends
“The Last Thing You’ll Ever See”
From the Upcoming Record Building the Sun
“Love Is Not”
“Rose and Thorn”
I’m working on a podcast to launch on Patreon (and move our Lil Red Army friends over there), which will give me the chance to actually play you these kinds of musical examples while I rant and rave. 🙂 Please email me at email@example.com if you might want an invite to Patreon down the line. We could use your help. We “don’t wanna die in a Super 8 hotel” (Jason Isbell).
Love you all,
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