THE BLURT BULLY PULPIT Ben Nichols

The prolific songwriter
and Lucero frontman sat down to blog, scratched his head and got… nothing. So
he decided to tell us about it.

BY BEN NICHOLS

I should be writing a song right now.

Guys, thank you very much for the offer to write my thoughts
down and publish them on your website but I just don’t know if I’ve got it in
me. Never kept a diary or a journal. Never wrote a zine. And at bars I’ve
discovered I’m usually much better off listening to stories rather than telling
them. So I’ll try to explain why I can’t write a blog and maybe that’ll be good
enough for now. Actually, by the time you’re done reading this it’ll probably
be obvious why I shouldn’t be writing a blog even without my explanation.

I know it seems like a stupid writing tool: “A blog about how I don’t write blogs.” Well,
it seems that way ’cause that’s exactly what it is. I’ve sat here all night
trying to think of something worth writing down and the only way I can get
anything on paper is by simply describing the trouble I’m having with the
process.

Part of the trouble is I’m supposed to be writing a new
batch of songs for Lucero (my band in Memphis)
right now. Songs I can usually write. Lately I can’t. Did ten demos over the
summer, half of which are ok and the rest will need major overhauls or be used
for spare parts. The label wants ten more within two weeks. I can write you ten
songs tomorrow and they might not be horrific but they sure as hell ain’t gonna
be inspired. Yeah… it’s been two years
since we put out a record. Nine months since we signed this new record deal.
Yeah… I should’ve been writing this
entire time. But the simple fact is I haven’t been. We’ve been busy on the road
and the time and energy just haven’t been there. Not to mention the fact that,
like I said above, finding something worth saying is extremely difficult. I
mean there’s a lot of really worthwhile stuff being said out there already and
I haven’t even heard a fraction of it. How am I gonna catch up on all that and then try to add to it? The thought alone
makes me real sleepy. So with songs and blogs it’s the same problem…

My first idea was to write about my little brothers. I got
two of them and they both live in Austin.
One’s a defense attorney and one’s a filmmaker. Matthew, the attorney, has been
the wildest and the quickest brother. Extremely witty and extremely thoughtful
in his own way. Life of the party. Jeffrey is the filmmaker and he’s been the
best at tackling his ambitions head on. He wrote and directed a film called Shotgun Stories that made Ebert’s top 20
movies list of 2008. Not bad for his first film. I love �em. What else can I
say?

Next idea was to rant about my obsession with the eighties’ movie
promise of a post-apocalyptic world. Never happened. Feel kinda slighted.
Growing up on Mad Max and Red Dawn and Dawn of the Dead you kinda figure either you’re not gonna make it
through the end of the world or if you do who gives a shit if you never passed
calculus. I bought a shotgun and some
shells but that’s all I’ve really done to prepare. Stocking up on water and
canned goods just isn’t as fun as buying a gun.

Alright… about two
hundred and sixty words to go. Just got done with a nation-wide acoustic tour.
Fifty-two shows in Fifty-six days. Wore my ass out. Chuck Ragan from Hot Water
Music, Tim Barry from Avail, Tom Gabel from Against Me! and Austin Lucas and
me. Along with my pedal steel player Todd Beene, a fiddle player named John
Gaunt, and an upright bass player Digger Barnes. All of us on a bus for two
months. I thought for a split second about telling the
funny-road-antics-drunk-stories but quickly dismissed that idea. Again, it
ain’t nothing you haven’t heard before. Licking the sand off of the shuffle
board table after a show in Phoenix… yeah. No.

Just recorded a solo record for the first time. It’s the
first record I’ve put out with my name on it. Talking about it in interviews is
one thing but writing a whole blog about it seems sleazy. What I don’t feel bad
about mentioning is that it’s based on Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. That book made a big impression on me. The record
in no way covers all the ground the book does. The record doesn’t come close to
encompassing even a part of the book. It was simply inspired by it. But I’ve
enjoyed McCarthy’s books immensely. Just finished the Border Trilogy. If I was
more scholastically minded I coulda written a blog on McCarthy’s western
novels. Hell no, I ain’t tackling that.

And there you go. Ha. Haven’t done that much writing since
’96. And I’m gonna try and never use the word blog again.

Ben Nichols’ new album The Last Pale Light In the West will
be released Jan. 20 by The Rebel Group. It was recorded with Rick Steff (Cat
Power, Lucero) and Todd Beane (Glossary) and features Nichols accompanied by
his acoustic guitar, plus Steff’s piano and accordion, and Beane’s pedal steel
guitar.

[Lucero Photo Credit: Anastasia Laurenzi]

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