Chris Gantry’s Songwriting Survival Kit
The resurgent country artist provides us with his take on our survival kit, that is as unique as his artistry
We first became aware of Chris Gantry back in 2017 when his long-shelved third album At The House Of Cash was considerately remastered and released by Drag City. A country troubadour whose influences extended to psychedelia and the Beat Generation, it’s easy to understand why the record might not have found a backer in the Nashville of the early 70s and it’s equally easy to be impressed by the quality of Gantry’s work and the freshness of its sound more than four decades later.
Digging a little deeper, we discovered that he was the writer behind Glen Campbell’s Dreams Of The Everyday Housewife and that he eschewed a life on Music Row in order to follow the muse. While devouring his back catalogue we also stumbled upon his book on songwriting, Gypsy Dreamers In The Alley; a series of Facebook posts which have been compiled into a longer missive. In his inimitable gonzo/stream of consciousness style, he blends his musings on the art of songwriting with tales from his times in Music City – it’s a must-read!
Gantry returned earlier this year with new record Nashlantis. An unapologetic reflection on his long and winding road through life, and the music industry, it’s proof that he’s lost none of his charm, nor his ability to write great songs. Here, the resurgent country artist provides us with his own take on our survival kit format, one that is just as unique as his artistry…
1. BROKEN PENCIL
First in my Songwriting Survival Kit is a broken pencil to remind me that even though over a thousand songs, records, books, plays and poems have passed through me, I have never really ever written a thing; I am not the writer of the works, nor am I smart enough to do such a thing. I am really only a conduit for the creative spirit or muse that has chosen me as a responsible soul to always be ready and show up to receive the messages that are given to me and transcribe them exactly as they are given to me. Being a receptor of songs, poems, etc. is a mystical occurrence that should never be taken as anything else..
This is to remind me of my part in the mystical process of the creation of art, because it is my life’s work to stalk the creative spirit every day in the wilderness of my soul, much as a hunter stalks his prey. This creates irritation in the fabric of the universe which manifests in the body as an itching feeling in the solar plexus area. By stalking the creative spirit with intent it helps to lure the muse out into the open to remind it you are ready to receive, that you have been patiently waiting with joy and excitation, and that being part of this mystical process is your life’s blood.
3. TICKET OR PASSPORT
This is to remind me, that when I feel the spirit moving on me, to pack my bags and leave and get out of the way so’s not to interfere with the process; not to impress any of my own agendas or opinions on the work, but to transcribe it accurately and to the letter, down to the finest detail. If anything needs editing the spirit will let me know what it is and how to do it. My job is only to write it down and, if it is a song, to add the music or melody, which is also the unction of the spirit. The less of me, the purer the work; I really have nothing to do with it.
4. PAD, PENCIL AND LITTLE INSTRUMENT
These are merely the tools I use to transcribe and document what is being transmitted to me by the creative spirit. Sometimes I will use my cell phone to record it.
5. PRIORITY MAIL
The priority mailbox is to remind me I am only the mailman or UPS delivery person of the creative spirit. I work for him and we both work for God. At this point, after the work is completed, it’s then my job to deliver to the world the messages that have been given to me. In most cases, because I am a singer and entertainer, that means carrying it to the stage and presenting the work to audiences. This is the full circle and completion of the mystical art of songwriting, a process I’ve been blessed to be involved in for almost 65 years… Enough said!
Chris Gantry’s latest album Nashlantis is out now via dragcity.com