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Jesse Winchester

A Conversation with Jesse Winchester

Puremusic: It was a real pleasure to hear this new record, it sounded like the voice of musical sanity.

Jesse Winchester: [laughs] Well, I can't account for that, Frank, but anyway...

PM:  No it's really -- those of us who really like your music are certainly glad to see it come around. How are you these days, and how is life treating you?

JW: Great, thank you, Frank. I hope the same for you.

PM:  Thanks so much. Yeah, I was in Nashville for many years but now I'm in Miami Beach.

JW: Wow.

PM:  Yeah, it's nice down here. How did this Appleseed recording Love Filling Station come together with Bill Vorndick and the acoustic A-team?

JW: Gee, it was my wife's nagging, I guess, more than anything else.

PM:  [laughs]

JW: And I think Keith Case, my booking agent, connected me with Appleseed.

PM: I see. And then Bill Vorndick, I mean, he's the perfect guy to have done this record. How did that work out that he was the guy and brought you up to his studio, et cetera?

JW: Well, Bill and I have worked together several times before over the years, so he was just the first guy I always turn to for things like that.

PM: I've worked some with bassist Mark Fain myself. Isn't that guy really something?

JW: Yeah, Mark is great. He's a good man.

PM: At our buddy Thomm Jutz' studio, we used to solo his tracks and just listen to those, and they sounded like songs all by themselves.

JW: Yeah, he's a beautiful player, he really is.

PM: Now, when you were down there, you didn't meet a great keyboard player named Steve Conn in Nashville, did you?

JW: No.

PM:  I only mention it because your speaking voices have an uncanny resemblance.  He's played with Bonnie Raitt and a lot of great people. But you sound exactly alike, it’s strange.

JW: Oh, yeah?

PM: So, although President Carter declared amnesty back in '77, you didn't show back up in the States until 2002. Did you love it up there?

JW: Yes, very much. I didn't really intend to come back. And it's only because I met Cindy, and I just couldn't ask her to learn French.


JW: It's just too cruel to do that to somebody. It's a hard language. And to at that point I decided, well, maybe it's time to go back to the States.

PM:  Wow. How did you run into Cindy?

JW: It's a long story, and sort of soap opera-ish.

PM:  Really?

JW: Cindy was the best friend of my first steady girlfriend in high school, and we met through her.

PM:  Wow.

JW: Yeah, kind of odd.

PM:  That's beautiful. And so it was Cindy that brought you back, then, to Charlottesville in particular?

JW: No, actually. Cindy was, just by coincidence, living in Memphis at the time, which is my original hometown. So I met her there. And we lived in Memphis for a couple of years, and then moved to Charlottesville in 2005.

PM:  So what brought you there? I mean, it's a beautiful place in the country. But something pulled you there?

JW: Well, I don't want to--

PM: Am I getting too personal? I don't mean to.

JW: Well, I don't know, it's not personal, I just don't like to say bad things about Memphis. They've had enough bad things happening there. But the situation there is not real good. I'll let it go at that. We just decided to move to a smaller town that had better schools. Cindy's daughter has two young children who were fixing to start school, and we just thought maybe it'd be better to go someplace where the schools aren't so troublesome.

PM:  Oh, yeah, schools are getting troublesome all over the States, no doubt about it. Yeah, I would imagine that's a good neighborhood for--

JW: Yeah, it is. The schools here are really fine.

PM:  When I started going through all the great Jesse tunes the last couple of days, and all the great covers, I remembered hearing Buddy and Julie Miller's gut-wrenching version of "A Showman's Life."

JW: Yeah, yeah.

PM:  Wow, that's astonishing, I think, how many ways a good song can be done.

JW: Yeah, that Buddy and Julie, wow, those are a couple of very fine musicians, really very funky people.

PM:  Yeah, they got something going on.

JW: Yeah, they do.

PM: Are there favorite covers of your songs that come to mind?

JW: It's a little hard because there's so much ego involved it's a little hard to separate the ego out from the real esthetic appreciation. But I always think of Ed Bruce's version of one of my tunes. Now, Ed Bruce, I think only made one record that I know of. But he and his wife wrote "Mama Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys" --

PM:  Wow.

JW: -- for Willie and Waylon. And then he made a record on his own. And I don't know how many copies it sold. But at any rate he covered one of my tunes that was called "Evil Angel." He just tore it up, really, really good. So I think of that one. But I'm just happy with all of them.

PM:  Yeah, absolutely. It's just such an amazing tribute when anybody covers a song.

JW: Yeah.    continue

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