Hiatt, bored with boredom, takes his mother's advice

October 30, 1997|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

For years, John Hiatt looked at touring as offering a couple hours of fun each night, surrounded by a whole lot of boredom.

"I've always got three or four hours where I'm sitting in the hotel, wondering what I'm doing out here," he says. And, like most musicians, he had pretty much resigned himself to having many hours to kill.

Then one day, he had a thought: Why not put all that boredom to use writing songs?

"I sort of bought into that, 'Oh, man, I can't write when I'm out on the road' line pretty early in my career," he says, and laughs. "That's [a myth] right up there with 'You gotta suffer to write on the road.' But all the things you need to write a song are there when you're on the road.

"You've got your solitude, which is hard to find when you're at home, with three kids. And you've got that thing, that magic, that wonderful gift: boredom. Native American Indians will tell you that that's a real gateway to some creative stuff. And there's plenty of boredom out on the road. It's like what my mom always told me. 'You've got to make good use of your time, John,' and I never bloody did, up until now. I'm finally getting the hang of it, here in my late 40s."

Hiatt had been doing pretty well by his songwriting up until then. He has released more than a dozen albums in the last 23 years TC (not counting his recordings with guitarist Ry Cooder) and has had his tunes recorded by everyone from Bonnie Raitt to Three Dog Night.

He made his greatest impression as a performer with 1987's "Bring the Family," an album which went a long way toward defining family life as appropriate material for rock and roll. But after several years of writing that sort of material, Hiatt became bored.

"I think I wrote some stuff that really captures what the family trip is about for a 30-something guy," he says. "But then I kinda got over that, and started trying to write from other points of view. Well, not trying to, but that's what seemed to happen, in the lyrical sense. And then the musical side of it has gotten much looser as I've gotten older."

Credit for a lot of that lies with his band, the Nashville Queens, three musicians who had refined looseness to an art form. "We kinda discovered that, as band, we tend to play best when we're in the dark -- when we're not quite sure of the song and where it's going next," says Hiatt, laughing. "Because you tend to play more as an ensemble when you're feeling in the dark. You gotta rely on your partner, because you don't know where [the music is] going."

Even though Hiatt himself is based in the Nashville area, the Queens -- guitarist David Immergluck, bassist Davey Faragher and drummer Gary Ferguson -- are all Californians. Hiatt isn't sure what that Cali connection means, but he does admit that it occasionally leads to confusion among the fans.

"There was a guy at a show last summer who asked, 'How come you call 'em the Nashville Queens? None of 'em are from Nashville."' Hiatt chuckles. "I said, 'Yeah, that's right. And???" '

John Hiatt

WHEN: Sunday, Nov. 2, 8 p.m.

WHERE: Bohager's

TICKETS: $21

CALL: 410-481-7328 for tickets, 410-563-7220 for information.

SUNDIAL: To hear excerpts from John Hiatt's new release, "Little Head," call Sundial at 410-783-1800 and enter the four-digit code 6115. For other local Sundial numbers, see the Sundial directory on Page 2A.

Pub Date: 10/30/97

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