Twitter asked its customers for some input yesterday: One thing you’d tweet your teenage self. I liked Mhairi Black, the UK’s youngest MP’s answer. ‘Don’t tweet that.’ I once recorded a series of radio conversations where the guests were asked to address their younger selves. It came from a letter Stephen Fry had written and published along similar lines.
It’s an interesting thought and led to me to take up the challenge in a song I wrote to the young man I was thirty years ago. ‘Here I Am In London Town,’ was an interesting exercise for me. Writing it in a studio in Shepherd’s Bush I found myself thinking about the person that had first adventured into London all those years before. The conclusion? ‘There’s so much to forget, but it’s forgetting that makes it easy. That’s how we survive.’ And, for me, that was the truth. We seem to remember the important stuff and it’s only possible to keep going if we let some memories slip away. We can’t carry it all.
I thought of this when preparing to talk to this week’s very special guest, Ashley Monroe, AKA Hippie (Hillbilly) Annie from The Pistol Annies. In the liner notes to her beautiful current solo album, Sparrow, she talks about the therapy she experienced before writing it and remembers the young person she was who first came to Nashville as a teenager. Reflecting that every minute of her time growing up has been important (“even the times I was a sloppy underage drunk in Printers Alley, trying to sing “Broken Wing’ like Martina in the karaoke bars to get discovered“)
Ashley’s honesty is engaging and moving. It comes out in a brilliantly ambitious record which tells her own recent story of being a first time mother. You will hear all of this in a conversation I recorded with her for this week’s Another Country. She cut three session tracks for us too after her sell-out show at St Luke’s as part of Celtic Connections last Sunday. Reading Ashley’s notes it reminded me of seeing two young girls outside The Ryman on my first visit to Music City when I’d gone to see Patty Griffin‘s concert there. Returning to my car I couldn’t help notice two teenagers dressed up like Patty tottering back to Broadway in red velvet heels, high on the music of the night. It was a joy to behold. I always wished Patty could have seen them, and often wonder where they are now and indeed what they’d make of their young selves.
So it’s with a glad heart too I can tell you there is new music to play you from Patty and we may well use the excuse to celebrate something from the album I first heard on that warm summer evening back in 2007. It will be a great pleasure to play the title track of Sean McConell’s new record too. One of my first writing dates was with Sean in the Warner Chappell building on that trip and it was on his recommendation I went to see Patty that night. I have a lot to thank him for and I think you will love the title track of his new album, ‘Secondhand Smoke.’
Elsewhere we will celebrate some new music from Yola, Sister Sparrow, Hayes Carl and Clint Bradley. We will get to the letter C on our A- Z of country music and we will attempt to bring you all of this in two hours of radio. Join me live if you can this Tuesday evening on BBC Radio Scotland.