“People always say that it’s autobiographical and they always assume — and I always do — when they hear a song, they think it’s autobiographical. I did a songwriting panel at New Music Seminar one year with Kris Kristofferson. And he was saying, ‘You can’t write
fiction; songwriters only write about what they know.’ And I said, ‘Bullshit,’ right off the bat to him. ‘Bullshit. Science fiction writers do not live in outer space. You know, Frank Black doesn’t live in space. He lives here.’ We got a good laugh out of that.
“I write fiction a lot of times. In ‘Band Camp,’ there’s a kernel of my own story in there, because I did go to band camp.
“I’ve never finished a novel, really. I’ve thrown out several. I got close to finishing one but I threw it in the trash. I’ve been working on one for a long time. I just don’t think it’s my bag. I enjoy doing it, but I just don’t think it’s my bag. … Stories about growing up in the South. Stories about bohemian life, hanging-out kind of life. No big departure.
“I don’t know, there’s a certain mystique about the Southern writer. People in the rest of the country, they don’t assume that people in the South can read. So when somebody from the South can write … There’s all kind of mythic darkness associated with the South, the underbelly of violence.
“These are pretty universal songs — they could take place anywhere.”
From: An interview I conducted with Vic Chesnutt in February 2003. We talked about his new album at the time (Silver Lake), his drinking (“I did shit I don’t know what I did for years”), the car accident that left him paralyzed, small-town Georgia, Emmylou Harris, Sling Blade (in which he appeared alongside Billy Bob Thornton) and Madonna (who had recorded one of his songs). He was gentle, honest, tragic, funny and friendly. He was a real person, and he passed away Christmas Day 2009. You should know his music, if you don’t already.
Read: While looking around the past.
Bonus quote: “I don’t want to listen to me. I want to listen to other people. I got no business listening to myself.”