The first artist I interviewed was Billy Joe Shaver.
And I had no idea what I was doing. I mean that existentially and pragmatically: I wanted to be a writer but holy cow how do you record an interview on the phone what do I say oh my gosh what if he hates me my voice is so squeaky I should smoke a pack of cigarettes first that’ll help no it won’t you’ll barf you’re absurd and a big phony and HE WILL KNOW.
I was totally, unquestionably in so deep over my head I didn’t know which way was up.
I went out and bought every Billy Joe Shaver album at Waterloo Records.
I can still remember dialing his number one afternoon and being thankful he couldn’t see my sweaty hands shaking uncontrollably.
He answered. Soft-spoken and polite, he gave beautiful answers to clumsy questions. If he was frustrated by the college kid who sounded 12 and terrified, he never let on. He wished me a merry Christmas.
He said something else: “Simplicities don’t need to be greased.” And I’m only just now beginning to understand what he meant. I have a feeling I’ll be writing, writing, writing my way to simple for the rest of my life.
About a year later, I decided Billy Joe Shaver should be the subject of my undergraduate thesis for a class called “Writing the Biography.”
His publicist Kay Clary set up another interview for me. I had no idea how huge the favor was –– and no idea that Kay would hire me and help me immeasurably just a few years later in Nashville. (Kids: keep in touch with the abnormally nice people you meet along the way.)
So we spoke again. I was still terrified. He still pretended not to notice.
And when I didn’t receive the tip-top grade I’d worked so hard to get, my professor said it was because in every draft, over and over again, it was simply too obvious how much I liked Billy Joe.
Penalized for blatant Billy Joe Shaver love. I’ll take it.
Nashville friends, he's playing up there Wednesday night (4/15). GO!