Diversions :: Roadside Graves on Kris Kristofferson

(Diversions, a recurring feature on Aquarium Drunkard, catches up with our favorite artists as they wax on subjects other than recording and performing.)

Earlier this year I asked Roadside Graves' John Gleason and Jeremy Benson to wax a bit about one of their favorite songwriters, Roger Miller, as the Graves music is nothing if not story driven. In August, while the band was in L.A. doing one of their four gigs that week, Jeremy and I got to talking about the piece. I asked if their was anyone else they had in mind besides Miller. Only one, he said, and that was Kris Kristofferson. Below, John, Jeremy and Rich each discuss America's warrior-poet, and their relationship with his music. And if you missed it, be sure to read our interview with Kristofferson from earlier in the month.

John on Kris: Let’s consider the name Kris Kristofferson. It sounds good, it looks good, it’s memorable, but it’s not constant. Probe your family this Thanksgiving and ask who is Kris Kristofferson and you are likely to find that they recognize the name but attach a different persona depending on their age and interests. To my mother he is the guy with his shirt off holding Barbara Streisand, to my brother he was the weapons expert in Blade, to my father he was the guy who sang about having beer for breakfast, and then there’s my own Kris Kristofferson. I hope I never meet him because my expectations are tremendous and unfair.

In high school I hung out with the kids who sat out for gym, the pale kids who sat on the top bleacher and listened to their Sony Walkman, yet I always changed for gym and ran laps. Sometimes I even sprinted and exceeded the required sit-ups despite the commentary from above. It’s human to be contradictory, to not fit expectations, to be accepted by one group and still free to piss them off. Or, in Kristofferson’s world, it would be to drink and write songs all night and then climb a mountain the next morning.

Kristofferson’s songs are confident and weary. They are intelligent songs that carefully detail the thin thread between personal relationships and the responsibilities of being human. There are traces of regret, piles of compassion, and hints and maps on how to live. You believe every word because it’s honest and direct and accessible. Play his first two records for anyone who declares they like all genres of music except country and you may persuade them otherwise.

Recently we were lucky to sit in the first row of his one-man show at McCarter Theater in Princeton, he blew his nose frequently, and looked at us and said, “You paid a lot of money to see and an old man blow his nose.”

MP3: Kris Kristofferson :: Darby’s Castle

This is a small gem. “It only took one night to bring it down, when Darby’s castle tumbled to the ground”. A story song about a man obsessed with building a grand home for his wife and himself. You fill yourself up with ambition to make sense of the world, to find your place, and hope to be remembered by what you do. Or quite frankly you write songs, you sing, you play shows and you consume most of your free time trying to fulfill this strange ambition but you can’t pretend or assume that everyone in your life is satisfied. Sadly, sometimes you find out too late. And without them, there is no ambition or will to create anything and you no longer have the luxury or the time.

MP3: Kris Kristofferson :: Sunday Morning Coming Down

This song has my father’s second favorite line, “Put on my cleanest dirty shirt” (Townes Van Zandt’s “Your breath as hard as kerosene”   was always the first).   My father was a real estate agent who wanted to be a professional gambler. He never wore dirty shirts, but he, like many, loved the idea of being a character. Like reading Charles Bukowski or Hunter S. Thompson, it’s easy to emulate the character they present, but beyond the intoxication really is the freedom. Kristofferson, or the character in this song, is completely free. He has the time to drink two beers before putting on clothes in the morning. It almost doesn’t matter that he regrets the decisions this particular Sunday is reminding him of, because it sounds so damn cool. Sober or hung-over it is a song to end the week. A day where expectations are low and nightlife is unwelcome, a day to reflect on the choices you’ve made. You should be lucky to have the time to hear the bells, or to watch something as mundane as a kid kicking a can. Except of course if you do this every day of the week, then it’s just a big waste of time.

+ Continue Reading: Jeremy and Rich on Kristofferson After The Jump...

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