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Minton Sparks

A Conversation with Minton Sparks

Puremusic: As much as I've greatly enjoyed your first two releases, as you know, I really think you've outdone yourself here on Sin Sick. It just keeps getting better.

Minton Sparks: Oh, thank you.

PM: When do you find time to write with kids? That's got to be hard. How many kids do you have?

MS: Oh, my God, that's the thing. I was telling John today, "I'm going to go crazy if I don't write." And right now I'm still just writing on envelopes in the car at the stop sign.

PM: Don't  you have one of those little recorders.

MS: I don't. I really just keep a pad and a pen.

PM: You've got to get one of those little recorders. There are these little digital things--you just press the button and start recording--some of them are no bigger than a key chain.

MS: Oh, I've got to get one of those. That could help me, because I seriously just have shit all over my car from what I'm writing while I'm driving.

PM: A friend of my brother's who used to drive a bus for Bob Dylan said that Bob used to write on scraps of everything the whole tour. Bill was in the habit of cleaning up the bus and collecting all the pieces of paper and putting them in a shoebox. And Bob, at the end of the tour, would come up and say, "Bill, you got those papers for me?" He goes, "Yeah, here they are, Bob." And Dylan would go home with a shoe box full of notes.


PM: So before I get ahead of myself, which I'm inclined to do, I think it's unusually important in your case to talk a little bit about your childhood, and the atmosphere in which you were raised?

MS: Oh!

PM: Can we go there?

MS: The nutso years--actually, I had a pretty good childhood.

PM: Where was it?

MS: I grew up half in Murfreesboro [TN] and half in Daytona, because my father's work was in Daytona Beach, Florida, sort of amidst the skateboards and doobie smokin', although I wasn't involved in that. But it's sort of that and then Murfreesboro.

PM: Now, Murfreesboro back then was a different Murfreesboro, one is led to conjecture.

MS: Oh, yeah. It was really small. I think there were only--maybe it was 30,000 people, or 20,000.

PM: And it was count-ry?

MS: Yes.


MS: Country. And see, most of my family is from--well, nobody is from Murfreesboro--but Memphis, Arkansas. So deep, deeply southern folks.

PM: Right. The people you're calling on for their voices, their stories and their emotionality and mentalities, they're people from Memphis, Arkansas, and the like.

MS: Yeah.

PM: Who do you feel like you're channeling, by and large?

MS: I don't know. I think about that. On Middlin Sisters, there were specific people, I mean, and in the performance I sort of had specific individuals, then, to channel. Now it's almost the spirit of--because on this one, it's dark as can be--it's more like all the people in my family or other people who have experienced that particular thing I'm talking about. Like in "Peeping Tom," I've ended up hearing all these stories after shows about women who've fallen in love with somebody in prison or something. [laughs]

PM: Yeah, right. And I was very fascinated by that piece because, as a youth, my brothers and I were all into that.

MS: Really? [laughs]

PM: Yeah, we were incorrigible.

MS: Wow!

PM: Oh, yeah. We'd break off from what we were doing, "Oh, it's 8:15, I know so-and-so is doing a hundred strokes right now. See you later."

MS: [laughs] Oh, my gosh!

PM: And I'd be sitting up in the huge bough of some black walnut tree just trying like hell not to fall out, above her bedroom window.

MS: Yeah, I mean, that's a man who's got some courage. That's the moxie that most women go for.

PM: That's right! A guy who's willing to work for what he wants.

MS: Yeah! [laughs] I mean, if he'll sit up in a tree, well, hey, maybe I'll leave my husband.


PM: How many children do you have?

MS: I have two.

PM: Two, yeah. Jeez, I don't know how in the world you find the time to write. Well, you got a good husband, that's one thing.

MS: Yeah.

PM: But back to the atmosphere that you grew up in, was it more Murfreesboro or more Daytona Beach?

MS: Well, it was kind of half and half, but I'd say definitely more Murfreesboro. I'm definitely of that ilk.

PM: And it was a markedly southern upbringing?

MS: Oh, yeah. It was country. We were sort of untouched by the 60s, even.

PM: Really?

MS: Yeah! I mean, I'm always blown away by Katie Wallace's stories, and think, "God, we missed it!" Although I was a little young, too, but yeah, we were just--I don't know what we were doing. Nothing! [Kate is a mutual singer songwriter friend who introduced us many years ago when we both showed up to pack the truck when Kate left Nashville to move back out West, this time to Santa Barbara.]

PM: When I've seen shows where you and even your brother Greg [Webb] were buck dancing, it was easy to see that, wow, they definitely did not grow up in my town.

MS: [laughs]

PM: There was nobody in my town doing that.


MS: Yeah. We spent at least four hours a week on buck dance training.

PM: Wow!

MS: It was not like a real happening growing up.

PM: How did buck dancing come into the picture?

MS: Greg and I were in the Rutherford County Square Dancers. It was sort of what you did. They'd have different dance teachers come in and teach on the weekends. And so we traveled as part of that dance troupe.

PM: The Rutherford County Square Dancers. And were you guys good?

MS: I was decent and Greg was fabulous. I wanted to be--he danced in Romania. He traveled all over. He was better than me. I was decent. I was a decent dancer.

PM: Unbelievable. He was a real shit kicker.

MS: Oh, yeah. He could be dancing, jump up on a table, go to splits, come back up, back down. I mean, he was fabulous.

PM: And beyond his youthful buck dancing abilities, he has, like yourself, quite an artistic bent.

MS: Yeah, yeah. I think there's something about buck dancing, if you do it early enough, it'll set you on an artistic path.


PM: Well, we're going to have to investigate that line of thought.

MS: [laughs]

PM: I think you may be right.


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