When I was in high school, I thought a muse for an artist or a writer was a zaftig, round-eyed lady lounging, semi-nude, on a chaise lounge. And for a female artist or female writer, the muse was a wooden bowl of fruit.
When I was in college, I considered the source of inspiration flowed from art history books and tales of Joyce and Keats accompanied with popcorn-filled nights of foreign films. Then I realized that a 500 year-old statue, a 200 page novel and a black-and-white reel did not motivate my fingers to dance on a keyboard.
When I was a journalist, I discovered that country music motivated me, period. It’s not because I live in the South. It’s not because country stations dominate the FM dial. It’s not because I watched Hee Haw on Saturday nights. It’s because the Nashville sound helps me in character development and plot structure. Think about it: that snake in Carrie Underwood’s "Cowboy Casanova" is a writer’s dream (or nightmare). I definitely dig Martina McBride and George Strait. I want to give literary shout-outs to South Carolina natives Josh Turner (Pamplico) and Darius Rucker (Charleston), formerly of Hootie and the Blowfish.
Below are some muse-worthy lines from songs that I downloaded to my iPod. By the way, that bowl of fruit, I ate it.
Tim McGraw, "Real Good Man"
Girl, you'll never know no one like me, up there in your high society. They might tell you I’m no good, Girl, they need to understand just who I am. I may be a real bad boy, but, Baby, I’m a real good man…I might have a reckless streak at least country mile wide, if you gonna run with me it’s gonna be a wild ride.This is an awesome portrayal of a roguish male antagonist in a romance novel. Move over Fabio.
Waylon Jennings, "Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line"
Everybody knows that you been steppin’ on my toes, and I’m getting pretty tired of it, cause since you were a little bitty tiny girl… you got the only daddy that will walk the line…I’m comin’ unglued at your funny little moods.This country legend is best known for the Dukes of Hazzard theme song. Waylon is a master of the visible description; he does a fantastic job in lamenting about a woman who doesn’t appreciate his love. After listening to this, I would dash to the computer and bang away another chapter or two.
Marshall Tucker Band, "Can’t You See"
Gonna take a freight train down at the station, don’t care where it go…what that woman, oh, she been doin’ to me…Gonna find me a hole in the wall, gonna crawl inside and die.This blues-inspired song gets me to focus on structuring my chapters into coherent masterpieces. I mean, really, this man’s in pain. I understand it - I’m in pain because I can’t get the chapters quite right.
Trisha Yearwood, "Wrong Side of Memphis"
I’ve been living on the wrong side of Memphis, really breaking away this time full tank of gas and a '69 Tempest takin’ me to that Nashville sign no turnin’ back come too far headed down Forty with my old guitar…I’ve been living on the wrong side of Memphis gonna bronze these blue suede shoes, these cowboy boots looking kinda restless, they ain’t gottta single thing to lose.This is an inspirational song. Trisha’s from Georgia. I’m from South Carolina. She’s dreaming of the Grand Old Opry. I’m dreaming of New York. She made it. I will make it, too.
Fleetwood Mac, "Dreams" I know. It is not a country song.
Listen carefully to the sound of the loneliness of your heartbeat… to the stillness of your memories of what you had, what you lost…thunder only happens when it’s raining; players only love you when they’re playing.Can you sense the agony that Stevie is singing about? I’m not a big Fleetwood Mac fan, but, after hearing this song, I believe in the power of words.