AE: It also sounds like it was nice to work with someone who respects the intimacy of songwriting, someone as invested in the process as much as the product.
CW: [Rushing the process] is not just indigenous to Nashville and you can find writers there who just hate that way of doing things, too. But for a while there was a machine shop of songwriting on Music Row that was so banal and sterile. But I’ve gone to other cities to write with other writers and they’ve somehow adopted the same [mentality of], "Write two songs, you’re gonna cut them right?" It’s gross. I feel like, "I hope you left me a twenty on the dresser." It made me feel like a whore. Sometimes I think that writers like that forget that these records are a part of us forever. It may be another cut to them but we go out and have fans for the rest of our lives come up with that record and ask us to sign it and ask what a song means. It’s like adopting a child. It’s a significant part of a person’s being.
AE: Do you have any idea when you’ll record the songs you wrote with Perry and when they might come out?
CW: I’ll bet I’ll go out there within the next couple of months. My fall is getting busy, but I don’t want too much time to go by and I think Linda is eager to do it, too. I just enjoyed her. There are a lot of gifted people in our industry. You work with a lot of talented people and you think, "Why didn’t they make it?" I know so many people more talented than I am and you look at them and think, "They just didn’t make it. They just didn’t get a shot." But the older I get the more I can dissect it and look and see some of the reasons why.
Linda Perry has this level of talent and she handed that level of talent off to an incredible work ethic. She works so hard with what she’s been giving. She’s been given much, she’s been given immense, incredible talent, but she works so hard and she has incredible courage in her craft. To sit down with somebody and to write a song the way that you would write it alone, I’ve never met another writer who would do that.
I’ll expound upon that: when I sit with my guitar—like, I’m holding a guitar right now as I talk to you—I sit in my house with a guitar most of the time, in front of the computer or emailing, and I’ll play and I’ll sing [sings a line] and I’ll just make up words and just throw lines out that don’t mean anything. Now when a person sits down for a co-write, they withdraw a little bit and you wouldn’t say those stupid lines that just come out because you don’t want to be embarrassed about, "Oh gosh, that didn’t rhyme" or "Why did I just say ‘sponge’? Why did that word just come out of my mouth?"
Linda does that and insists on that as the process with a co-writer. She says, "This is what I do." You’re in the A room and you sit down and these guys swarm on you and mic you up and mic your guitars and they record the entire writing session. It’s free form, free flowing. They record everything. It takes so much courage to do that. To let just whatever falls out of your mouth, fall out of your mouth. She’s not afraid of anyone going, "That was a stupid line," and I was floored with her courage.
And I get it. I get why Linda Perry is one of the most successful writers and producers out there. She has a level of talent and then she works her butt off with it.
AE: She also sounds like a generous spirit. You have to be generous to open yourself up like that.
CW: Yes, she doesn’t play games. She didn’t give me the feeling of "I’m Linda Perry, who are you? What have you done?" She did her homework. She knew who I was. I mean, if you’re ever going to get nervous, I guess that would be the person to get nervous with. Songwriters or creative people, we’re all a little insecure, it’s what fuels us to write the next song. But I wanted to have a good day. I wanted to have a good day because I wanted Linda Perry to think that I was worth spending the day with. But she certainly didn’t baby me. She knew that I wrote my whole record myself. She knows I know how to write a song. She didn’t throw me a bone, but she didn’t bully me either. I’ve been bullied by writers and that’s not fun. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to walk out of a writing session. But she couldn’t have been more gracious.
AE: Any chance she’d join you on tour for a song or two?
CW: She’s got a band, Deep Dark Robot, and a great new record that she’s putting out. Wait until you hear this stuff. It is so cool and good. I was asking her when she was going to tour and she was telling me some timelines and I had it in my head that [they] might coincide with some dates that I’m doing.
AE: What a show.
CW: It would thrill me. I don’t know if she would do it, but it would absolutely thrill me. I think we would have a great, great time on stage. I think we’d have a lot of fun. She’s really funny. She’s a spiritual person, a deep person, but she’s wickedly funny and dry. She’s got a stealth humor and it shocked me. It was a real pleasant surprise.
AE: I like that in your Twitter exchanges she tells you to play it cool, but you can’t help but gush over her.
CW: I said to her [over Twitter] the other day, "I’m buying you a present," and she texted me back and I said, "If I’m twittering you, don’t text me" because she was mad a couple of weeks ago when she was twittering me and I answered her on text. She said, "Answer me on Twitter. It looks like you’re ignoring me." Then she did it back to me so I said, "Forget it, I’m not buying you a present." When she [apologized] and said, "I want my gift," I wrote back, "Forget about you, you ruined the magic.
AE: Have you figured out what to get her for an actual gift?
CW: No, but I know it’s going to have meaning. I don’t know what it will be yet, but it has something to do with—we had a really great conversation the last day in the studio and it’s going to have something to do with that.