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Q&A Sessions
John Stewart: November 8 - 21, 2000
Page 2


A year ago I picked up Bombs Away Dream Babies on cassette. It has since become one of my all time favorite tapes for when I take my daily walk. I understand that you opened some shows for Stevie Nicks on her Bella Donna tour. How was the crowd response? Also, did you join Stevie for her set or vice versa? (Ian, Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada)
Yes I did join Stevie on her Bella Donna tour and the reaction was terrific. No, Stevie kept her distance...

All the Best

John Stewart

What was the inspiration behind "Gold"? Did you already have the lyrics written when you went into the studio, and did Stevie Nicks contribute anything to it besides her vocals? This song epitomizes the whole late seventies Southern California scene, and still holds true today! Thanks for your insight and awesome music! (Tobi, Napa, California, USA)
Thanks Tobi. We're neighbors, I'm in Novato.

The inspiration was going over to Lindsey's house and seeing all the money that his songs and records had brought to him.

Yes, the lyrics were written when Stevie came in to sing. She lent her magnificent voice and phrasing to the record.

All the Best

John Stewart

So much was made of the Lindsey and Stevie contributions on "Bombs Away" in the press that sometimes it seemed almost disrespectful to you as an artist. Do you remember the "Bombs Away" time with fondness these years later, or do you remember it with some mixed feelings? (Lesley, San Diego, California, USA)
It was one of the best times I ever had recording. I learned so much. It was very exciting.

Thanks.

John Stewart

With the current state of popular music being what it is, are there any artists/bands out there that you look to as bright spots? (Lesley)
Hi Lesley,

Good question. Steve Earle and my old favorites U2, Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, Mark Knopfler and, I think their name is The Box Tops.

Thanks

John Stewart
jstewart2_1

Bombs Away Dream Babies

Are there any particular events or albums you've been involved with that you consider to be career highlights? (Lesley)
Lesley,

Yes, CALIFORNIA BLOODLINES, BOMBS AWAY DREAM BABIES, WIRES FROM THE BUNKER.

Thanks,

John Stewart

Hello Mr. Stewart,

Is the song "Blonde Star" written about Stevie Nicks and if so, what does "the ghost of Dallas" mean? Also, what did she think when she heard the song? Thank you. (Angel S., Campbell, Calfornia, USA)
Hi Angel,

I love that name. The ghost of Dallas is JFK. I don't think Stevie ever heard it. Thanks for writing.

What was the inspiration for "Dreamers On the Rise"? What has your brother Michael done since We Five? (Dave Tungate, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
I wrote Dreamers on the Rise when my wife and I were separated for a while. My brother Mike is now a computer software engineer and is working for Adobe.

Hi John :) Thank you for doing this Q&A. When did you write your first song? What made you decide to go electric? What was it about Lindsey's playing that caught your ear? From your bio, it sounds like Lindsey was to you what the Beatles were to Dylan. (Tracy Garner, Atlanta, Georgia, USA)
Tracy,

I wrote my first song when I was around ten. A pathetic little ditty called WILL THERE BE ANY MOON TONIGHT. I'm still writing about the Moon.

I just wanted to be able to play electric, everyone was doing it. Lindsey's guitar playing sound reminiscent of banjo frailing to me. Yes, you might say Lindsey was to me as the Beatles were to Dylan or Dick Contino was to Elvis.

Alas

John Stewart

On a completely unrelated topic, why are there pictures of you in an aviator costume all over Corbis.com? Were those pictures from a cover shoot (for an album I don't have!)? (Tracy Garner, Atlanta, Georgia, USA)
Tracy,

I had recorded an album called WINGLESS ANGELS and the record company set me up at the Universal wardrobe dept. The let me wear the same outfit Gary Cooper wore in the Court Marshall of Billy Mitchell.

Thanks,

John Stewart

Do you still have contact with Lindsey & Stevie? The Kingston Trio is great!!! Thank you for your music... (ZD, New York City, New York, USA)
Never in contact with Stevie or Lindsey. Thanks the Trio was much fun.

I was wondering if you could describe for us all what it was like working with Lindsey and Stevie? What were they like? Did everyone get along during the whole process or was there a little bit of "in fighting"? (of course I ask this because who doesn't know about their track record with arguments) Would you work with them again? Finally I just wanted to tell you that I love the song "Gold" Thanks for answering these questions. (Alexandra Campbell, Winona, Minnesota, USA)
Alex,

Stevie and Lindsey were never in the studio together. They are both pros. Totally different in approach but when it gets down to it, they both go for it.

Thanks,

John Stewart

Great to be able to speak with you, Mr. Stewart. In many of your songs, you use the same names for your characters, for example "Jenny" shows up in several songs. I was wondering if you think of Jenny as the same person in different songs, almost like a recurring character? (Rich, San Diego, California, USA)
Thanks for writing. Good question. It's pretty much the same girl I think. A girl from the past who I never knew.

Merry Christmas

John Stewart

I recall hearing Buckingham amusingly relate in an interview about being somewhat in awe to be speaking to you the first time you met. Do have any recollections of your initial meeting? When you worked with Lindsey was there any kind of formal writing structure you undertook together, or was it just more of a hang out and see what we come up with kind of vibe? If you have one, what would be your fondest memory of working with Lindsey? Thanks for your time and your music. (Rich, San Diego, California, USA)
Hi again Rich.

I was equally in awe of Lindsey the first time we met. There was no structure when we worked together. The engineer would put up a song. Lindsey would listen and decide what he thought the song needed.

My happiest memory working with Lindsey was to feel and see that great intuitive genius at work. I don't use that genius word lightly..

JS
jstewart2_2

John Stewart; The Time Cowboy Rides Again; photo by Ron Beffa Jan 8, 2000

Hey John,

How's it going? I can't wait to hear your new stuff. Can you tell me why you rerecorded Midnight Wind with Roseanne Cash and Gold with Sarah Hickman? Don't get me wrong. I'm a big Roseanne fan but I like the originals so much and was looking forward to having them on a compilation CD of your best work. When Airdream Believer came out I thought it'd be exactly that. What happened to the versions with Stevie? All the Best. (C. Mark Gomez, Grand Junction, Colorado, USA)
Hi Mark.

I agree, there's no topping the MIDNIGHT WIND version with Stevie. The masters were owned by Stigwood and I was recording for another label and we couldn't use them. Merry Christmas.

John Stewart

Seeing you and Buffy and Dave performing together the other night and harmonizing so well reminded me that it has been a long time since Darwin's Army has performed. Now that Buffy is on the road to recovery have you had any thoughts of grabbing John Hoke and Dave Crossland and putting the Army together and touring some of the folk festivals and other venues? Your "12 Gates to the City" is a standout as are others such as your version of "Boy in the Bubble". (Ron Beffa, Vallejo, California, USA)
Hi Ron.

There's no chance of DARWINS ARMY touring. No one knows who we are and ergo there's not enough money to get us all there. Appleseed won't support any gigs either. Happy Holidays

JS

Hi John,

I first saw you play with the Cumberland Three, as a warm up act for Shelly Berman. If memory serves me right, and at times it does not, Shelly fell off the stage and broke his arm. I am not going to ask if you were responsible, in an effort to prolong your stay on stage, who could have guessed it would last for all these years, but thank God it has. I followed yours and Buffy's music through the years and have found much pleasure and healing in it. One of my most memorable experiences was seeing you and Buffy three nights in a row when you closed the old hungry i in San Francisco in the late sixties, I still have an autographed copy of Signals through the Glass from that time.

My question deals with the writing, I'd love to know how you have been able to cover such a wide range of subject matter, in such a wide variety of styles. Do you draw your energy from trying new frontiers? Do you actively pursue the subject matter, or is it thrust upon you?

Thanks to you both for the hundreds of hours of listening pleasure you have brought to your fans over the years. I hope this letter does not make you feel old, its your music that has allowed many of us to have aged so damn gracefully. Please keep it up for many more years. (Mike T. Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada)
Thanks Mike for all those very kind words.

Yes I was responsible for Shelly Berman falling of the stage. The songs I write are given to me, at least the fire to write them is. Hearing another song will inspire me to write or an idea and sometimes the whole song will just be given to me as if I was taking dictation. MIDNIGHT WIND was such a song and a unrecorded song BLACK SKY SHINING. I dreamt two songs SOME KIND OF LOVE and TICKET TO THE STARS that I was able to get down on tape before they went away. Thanks for writing and MERRY CHRISTMAS.

John Stewart

I was wondering if you could describe your approach to songwriting. Do you wait for inspiration to hit you, or are you always thinking, always writing. Do the words just come too you or do you often have to go back and re-write. Do you often feel unsatisfied with that which you have written? Thanks for your time and advice. (Brian J. Geraghty, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA)
Brian,

Thanks for writing. The songs are 90% inspired. I used to be always thinking about and writing. Not so much anymore. I used to write a lot of throw aways but now I never let them become real songs.

The words usually come first or the words and the melody at the same time. I do go back and re-write. Never censor yourself when you first write. No matter how dumb it sounds live with it for a day. You can always go back and fix it.

I more than often feel unsatisfied with what I write and there's nothing I can do to fix it.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

John Stewart

Hi John! First I want to say that I am a big fan of yours and thank you for doing this Q&A. A few years ago I heard you on the "Steve and Garry" radio show here in Chicago. You told them that the line in "Daydream Believer," "Now you know how happy I can be" was originally "Now you know how funky I can be." Am I remembering this right? I think that using the word "funky" makes the song even more meaningful! Why did they change it? Well, I guess I can figure out why. I remember one of the radio hosts imitating a "Monkees" producer saying "Davey doesn't do 'funky!'" But, what reason did they give you? What did you think about it? Did you have any imput on the change? Do you perform that song in your shows? If you do is it with funky or happy? I have thought about this all these years and I never dreamed that I'd be able to ask you about it! Thank you. Take care:-) (Eve, Chicago, Illinois, USA)
Eve,

Thanks for writing. You're right the record company said that ;"Davey can't sing funky". Yes it did mess with the clarity, Anne Murray said she has no idea what the song means. I had no input on the change but they did ask me first. I do sing it in my shows and always sing "FUNKY".

Happy Holidays.

John Stewart

I've always loved the high energy of the song "Spinning of the World" and I especially liked the way you and Lindsey did it on Bombs Away Dream Babies. I know the song must be pretty old, because the Kingston Trio also recorded it, so I was wondering what would have been the inspiration for the lyric "you can't tell her voice from the spinning of the world?" It seems like such a cosmic thing, where you love a girl so much that your love just blends with the planet. Or was there a different concept behind the song? (Nancy, San Jose, California, USA)
Hi Nancy,

The inspiration for the song was The Beatles I'VE JUST SEEN A FACE Yes it is cosmic for I'm a cosmic guy.

LYM.

Johnny Stew

Dear John,

Many thanks for the glorious York gig on your UK tour and finding the time to sign my Johnny Moonlight CD. Are there any other artists' recent recordings you could recommend to a dedicated JS follower? (Rafael Salguero, Coventry, UK)
Thanks for writing and glad to see you have JOHNNY MOONLIGHT. I would reccomend the new Marc Knopfler, Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon. Number one on the list I think wouls be the new STEVE EARLE - TRANSENDENTAL BLUES and the BEATLES NUMBER ONE HITS.

Happy Holidays

John Stewart

Hi John.....Would you tell me about your experiences, feelings, memories of Route 66. Thanks. (Gary, Newburgh, Indiana, USA)
My experiences were that of driving through a time warp of America in the forties and fifties, the old deserted resturants and gas stations store fronts. Some still open where I met Angel Delgadillo and his brother Juan in Seligman AZ. Angel is the barber there and one of the very few who would not give up when Highway 44 was opened in the 70's and the cars on Route 66 virtually stopped. There is a sense of calm and bright futures. America when it was building the dream, after World War II and the depression, the ghost of Tom Joad and all the Oakies and Arkies who made their way across Route 66 to California, the Promised Land during the Dust Bowl that actually blew their land away in the thirties. It is easy to easy why Americans and Germans, French, the Dutch and Japanesse all have this fascination with the Mother Road. You try to find what it is that draws you back again and again, but it's to effemeral, the closer you get the further it moves away from you. It's real however, so real you can taste it.

Merry Christmas

John Stewart

Closing Comments:

From Marty Adelson: We would like to sincerely thank John Stewart for participating in this Penguin Q&A. Speaking personally, I have been a huge fan for several years now and would definitely put The Last Campaign as one of my all time favorite albums. It, as well as Chilly Winds and Wires From The Bunker consistently find their way into my CD player. I have steadily been adding to my John Stewart music collection and look forward to a lot of new music in the future. I would also like to thank Ron Beffa from Clack's Cellar for helping to make this Q&A possible.

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