Music & Shows

Published on November 1st, 2012 | by Newt Rayburn


TLV interview: James McMurtry by Sarah Reddick

Local Voice Senior Writer Sarah Reddick recently set out to find James McMurty,the admirable songwriter. Mr. McMurtry managed to find our signal in rural Mississippi recently so he could tell a few things, and not tell a few others. Download The Local Voice #167 Full Color PDF here.

How many days would you say you average on the road each year? About a hundred and fifty traveling dates, plus regular weekly gigs and local weekends when we’re home.

What’s the wildest thing that’s happened on tour this year? Ain’t tellin’.

Who were some of your early musical influences? Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Little Feat

Have you heard any new music lately that’s impressed you? John Fullbright, young song writer from Oklahoma. And I really like what I’ve heard of that rap/rock fusion thing the Black Keys just put out.

Stephen King said you “may be the truest, fiercest songwriter of his generation.” He also said your song “Talking at the Texaco” was an inspiration for one of his more recent novels, Under the Dome. Are you a fan of his? I’ve never read his work.

What’s the best thing you’ve read recently? Patti Smith’s autobiography Just Kids.

Your song “Rachel’s Song” is one of my favorites. Can you tell me a little bit about where that story came from? I was probably twelve years old and riding in the back of someone’s Country Squire wagon. I looked out the window and saw a light dusting of snow on top of the coal on an east bound train coming out of the tunnel by the bridge at Point of Rocks Maryland. I knew the weather came from the west so I hoped to get out of school the next day, but it didn’t happen. That was the seed for the song. Years later, a friend of mine rolled an El Camino in North Texas and walked away from it to avoid a DUI. I used that element too. I’m not sure where the character, Rachel, came from.

What’s your writing process like? Do you have a routine? I get two lines and a melody. If they’re cool enough to keep me up at night, I’ll finish the song.

“We Can’t Make It Here” brought you into the political arena as a songwriter. How do you feel about the state of the country heading into election season? We’ve lost our minds and both parties like it that way. Corporations are in charge now. They aim to keep us all barefoot and pregnant so we work for any wage. I’ll still vote for Obama, because I can now purchase health insurance despite my pre-existing conditions.

I hear you like to hunt. What season do you prefer, and why? I hunt whitetail deer in the winter. A young doe makes my favorite meat. Every hunt is an education. I like spring turkey hunting for the adrenalin rush one gets when a gobbler answers one’s call.

Are you working on any new projects currently? What’s next? Scraping the songs together to go in the studio with the band. C.C. Adcock says he’ll produce.


Sarah Reddick’s
James McMurtry interview is from
The Local Voice
Download the
Full Color PDF here
The Local Voice #167 Full-Color PDF download

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About the Author

Newt Rayburn founded THE LOCAL VOICE in March of 2006. Previously, Newt was Editor of PROFANE EXISTENCE in Minneapolis, and Art Director for Ole Miss' LIVING BLUES magazine. Newt won a National Magazine Award in 1999 for his SOUTHERN MUSIC ISSUE with THE OXFORD AMERICAN. A seventh-generation Lafayette County, Mississippian, Newt Rayburn's alter ego—Neuter Cooter—lead the Mississippi band THE COOTERS to Rocknoll Glory across the USA from 1993-2018. Newt is a family man who also is a publisher, photographer, writer, musician, landlord, and Civil War enthusiast.

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