Skip to main content

Always On My Mind: John Doe Goes Country

Best known as founder and frontman for the Los Angeles punk band X, musician John Doe has always had a weakness for country music — and X's sound, in fact, sometimes had a twang to it. After that band's dissolution, Doe explored his countrified yearnings further, and in recent years he's turned in some eminently satisfying roots rock. With Country Club, Doe dives headlong into the genre, collaborating with the Canadian band the Sadies on a collection of classic covers originally recorded by titans like Merle Haggard, Tammy Wynette and Willie Nelson. The Sadies contribute three original tracks, while Doe and his X collaborator Exene Cervenka wrote one original of their own.

Doe, who's also a film and TV actor with credits including the hit series One Tree Hill, joins Fresh Air host Terry Gross in the studio with the Sadies for an hour-long chat and live performance

51:03

Transcript

*** TRANSCRIPTION COMPANY BOUNDARY ***
..DATE:
20090519
..PGRM:
Fresh Air
..TIME:
12:00-13:00 PM
..NIEL:
N/A
..NTWK:
NPR
..SGMT:
Always On My Mind: John Doe Goes Country

TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross. We’re really excited about today’s
show, a performance by John Doe. As the co-founder of the LA-based bank
X, John Doe is one of the leading voices and songwriters of punk rock in
the ‘70s and ‘80s.

As our rock critic, Ken Tucker, has said, quote, “when John Doe started
the band X in the ‘70s, his voice always stood out for its tunefulness,
a high, lonesome tenor that could sing country and pop, as well as the
harsher punk he and his then-wife Exene were producing,” unquote.

Now John Doe sings country-music classics by Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard,
Willie Nelson, Roger Miller and others, along with a few originals, on
his new CD “Country Club.” Backing him up on the CD is the Canadian-
based band The Sadies. Two of the Sadies are here to play with John Doe,
guitarist Travis Good and bass player Sean Dean.

Well, welcome to FRESH AIR. It’s so great to have you here. I’d like to
start by asking you to play a song. And I have a request: a song from
the new CD, “(Now and Then) There’s A Fool Such as I,” and do you want
to say a few words about the song, John, before we hear it?

Mr. JOHN DOE (Musician): I heard it as a kid, for sure, and then
somewhere in my mind – I mean that was Hank Snow’s version. Somewhere in
my mind, Bob Dylan did a slower version of it. And I tried to find it,
and all he did was the Elvis version, which is sort of rock ‘n’ rolly,
not good. And someday I’ll find the Bob Dylan version of “A Fool Such as
I.”

GROSS: Unless you invented it, and that version doesn’t really exist.

Mr. DOE: I think maybe I did. Maybe I just blended the two or something.
I don’t know.

GROSS: Well let’s hear your version.

(Soundbite of song, “(Now and Then) There’s A Fool Such as I”)

Mr. DOE: (Singing) Pardon me if I'm sentimental when we say goodbye.
Don't be angry with me should I cry. When you're gone yet I'll dream a
little dream as years go by. Now and then there's a fool such as I.

Now and then there's a fool such as I am over you. You taught me how to
love, and now you say that we are through. I'm a fool, but I'll love you
dear until the day I die. Now and then there's a fool such as I.

Now and then there's a fool such as I am over you. You taught me how to
love, and now you say that we are through. I'm a fool, but I’ll love you
dear until the day I die. Now and then there's a fool such as I. Now and
then there's a fool such as I.

GROSS: That sounds great. Thank you for doing that. And that’s John Doe
singing and playing guitar, Travis Good on lead guitar, Sean Dean on
Bass, and that’s a song on the new album by John Doe and the Sadies
called “Country Club.”

John, how did you decide to do a country album?

Mr. DOE: Well, for the last 20 years maybe, people would say oh, you
should do a country record, and it always seemed like a snooze to me.

GROSS: Because?

Mr. DOE: Well, because my voice is a pleasant voice, not really crazy.
You can’t identify it like Janis Joplin or Bob Dylan or something. It’s
not this signature Macy Gray, like wow, that’s a crazy voice or even
modern Neko Case or something.

So with that and a Nashville sort of smooth backing, it’s like…

(Soundbite of snoring)

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: So when the Sadies and I played together at a festival in
Canada, and it was like this is what it should be.

GROSS: Okay, here’s my take on you singing country.

Mr. DOE: Yeah.

GROSS: A lot of country is a kind of weepy singing because some of the
songs are so sad about, like, tragic love, being an alcoholic, like all
horrible things that can happen to you, and I don’t think you do weepy,
but you have this kind of like desolate sound when you’re singing some
of these songs that really works.

Mr. DOE: Inside I’m weeping.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Now I love “A Fool Such as I,” and I sometimes think when I hear
it how different would the song be if it was a fool just like me. It
just doesn’t quite work the same.

Mr. DOE: Well that’s the beauty of country music is it has this weird,
colloquial but sort of statesman prosaic. Like I was thinking about - we
do a song live, “There Stands the Glass.”

GROSS: I love that song. Oh, okay, now you’ve got to do a few bars of
it. I was going to ask you to do it, but I figured well, I don’t
necessarily know it.

Mr. DOE: Okay. All right, but anyway, this is like “There Stands the
Glass.” That’s a really weird sentence. It makes total sense, but it’s
like aloft the glass is before me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: Drinketh me down the glass of beer.

GROSS: Okay, do a few bars.

Mr. DOE: Okay.

(Soundbite of song, “There Stands the Glass”)

Mr. DOE: (Singing) There stands the glass that’ll ease all my pain,
that’ll settle my brain. It’s my first one today. There stands the glass
that’ll hide all my fears, that’ll drown all my tears. Brother, I’m on
my way.

I’m wondering where you are tonight. I’m wondering if you are all right.
I’m wondering do you think of me in my misery. There stands the glass.
Fill it up to the brim ‘til all my troubles grow dim. It’s my first one
today.

Mr. DOE: The short version.

GROSS: It’s amazing about how a song about such misery can make me so
happy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: I loved hearing you. That’s a great performance. I love what you
did with the there. That was really so big, it was so great.

Mr. DOE: Well, Webb Pierce did a great version. I used to do it in a
higher key. I had to accept that. And then Ted Hawkins did…

GROSS: Oh, I know that version, too, that’s a great…

(Soundbite of bellowing)

Mr. DOE: And there would be like a five-minute there.

GROSS: Yeah, he was this, like, homeless singer in California or
someplace.

Mr. DOE: Yeah.

GROSS: Yeah, so when did you start listening to country music and liking
it? I mean, did you ever just like write it off as something that you
weren’t about?

Mr. DOE: No, because I’m a white man, and white men listen to country
music.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: Well over a long period of time, right? I heard country music
early on as a kid. Folk music was like for kids back in the ’60s and
stuff. And then we all drew a line in like ’74 of like everything that
was before that, we put away. And then sometime in ’81, we started
getting George Jones records for 50 cents at thrift stores, right, and
then had a long period of idolizing that and feeling as though that was
more valid than what we did.

GROSS: Really?

Mr. DOE: Sure.

GROSS: Because why?

Mr. DOE: Because it has a history, because it’s, you know, it’s just
bigger. It’s bigger than rock music. It’s bigger than punk rock for
sure, and so it took me a long time to realize that I was just fooling
myself. You know, I had no connection to Johnny Cash or George Jones. I
was just this, you know, kid from Maryland and whatever. And I had
learned how to play music and punk rock and stuff like that and then
eventually got sick of it, sick of country music. You can’t listen to
the same songs over and over and over. And then just recently felt like
well, this is different. This is more like a Bakersfield sound. It’s
harder, and these guys do know bluegrass really well, and so it was a
good combination.

GROSS: My guests are John Doe and two members of the band, The Sadies,
Travis Good and Sean Dean. Their new CD is called “Country Club.”
They’ll perform more songs after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guests are John Doe, Travis Good of the band The Sadies and
bass player Sean Dean. And there’s a new album by John Doe and the
Sadies, which is called “Country Club,” and it’s an album of classic
country songs and a few originals, as well. And of course John Doe was
one of the founders of the classic punk band X.

So let’s do another song. By let’s, I mean you do another song.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: You can join in.

GROSS: No thank you. From the new CD, and I have another request, and
this is “Stop the World (And Let Me Off),” which is the song that leads
off the CD. Do you want to say a couple words about why you chose it?

Mr. DOE: Actually James Intveld, who’s a singer in Los Angeles, has done
this song for years, and I would see him do it once in a while. There’s
a festival called the Hootenanny. I saw him do it there, and it’s just
such a great song, so let’s get the tempo here.

(Soundbite of song, “Stop the World (And Let Me Off)”)

Mr. DOE: Stop the world and let me off. I'm tired of goin' 'round n'
'round. I played the game of love and lost. So stop the world and let me
off.

My world is shattered don't you see? Now you no longer care for me. I
miss the wonder of your kiss. How could you leave me here like this?

Stop the world and let me off. I'm tired of goin' 'round n' 'round. I
played the game of love and lost. So stop the world and let me off.

Stop the world and let me off. I'm tired of goin' 'round n' 'round. I
played the game of love and lost. So stop the world and let me off.

GROSS: That’s great. That’s “Stop the World” from the new CD by John Doe
and the Sadies, and they’re here performing live in the studio. We have
John Doe on vocals and guitar, Travis Good on lead guitar and Sean Dean
on bass, and the new CD, “Country Club,” is an album of country classics
and originals. I’m really grateful that they’re here performing live for
us today.

John, have you met any of the great country songwriters, either ones
whose work you do on the CD - I know some of them are dead but not all
of them - or other great ones over the years?

Mr. DOE: Yeah, I’ve met several singers. I met Johnny Cash at the first
Farm Aid, and I’ve met Merle Haggard a few times. He’s such a nut.

GROSS: Really? In what sense?

Mr. DOE: He just goes off on these tangents, and he just, you know,
holds forth, and he’s just – but he’s really good about it. You know,
he’s nice about it. There’s a little bit of the, like you know,
jailhouse like I’m going to tell you a story, and you’re going to
listen.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: What are you saying? (Unintelligible) in jail to justify that.

Mr. DOE: Well a little bit, you know. And there’s plenty, of course,
that you wish you would have met. I wish I would have met Roger Miller.

GROSS: Oh yeah, I’m glad you brought him up because you do a Roger Miler
song I really love on the CD, “Husbands and Wives.” And I’ll confess, it
took me a long time to come around to Roger Miller. I’d always meet
songwriters who admired Roger Miller, and all I knew were hits from the
‘60s that I really hated like “King of the Road,” “Dang Me” and England
swing like a pendulum do, and I thought, like, what exactly do you like,
you know? But it turns out he’s really a great songwriter. He has great
ballads.

Mr. DOE: It was hard to find a song that we felt we could pull across
because a lot of them are really sort of jokey, and it was sort of a –
great melody on all of them and great wordplay, but I think it was kind
of common knowledge they were all taking amphetamines to beat The Band,
and so…

GROSS: Was that right?

Mr. DOE: Oh, I think so. I don’t think I’m blowing anybody’s cover. I
mean Waylon Jennings talks about it all the time in his book. Anyway,
that’s sort of I think where some of it came from, and that’s where the
jokey, like, I’m really not taking this seriously, you know.

But the one thing about country music, to go back to another question…

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. DOE: …about why I wouldn’t – people would say you have such a great
voice, you should do this sort of record. And I thought well, if I do
that, and it has this smooth, Nashville background, it’s going to be
exactly what people hate about country music, which is too soft and too
weepy and too, you know, all these negative things about country,
whereas with the Sadies, it’s really rough, not – rough like rough and
tumble, you know. It’s got a serious edge, and even as much as we tried
to smooth it out, you can’t smooth that. You can’t smooth these guys
out.

GROSS: Yeah, I understand what you’re saying. I want you to do “Husbands
and Wives,” the Roger Miller song, that you do on the new CD, and I
mean, yeah, he does have some great ballads, including “More and More I
Miss You Less and Less.” Why did you choose this one? You said you were
looking for a ballad, didn’t want to do one of the jokey songs, thank
goodness.

Mr. DOE: I think it was – well, we thought about doing “Engine Engine
Number 9,” but that also has this sort of funny thing. I was hoping I
could sing “Baltimore,” and you know, bring back the hometown. But I
think just people splitting up, you know, or the other people you admire
who stay together, and it’s just a beautiful song.

GROSS: It is. Why don’t you do it for us.

(Soundbite of song, “Husbands and Wives”)

Mr. DOE: (Singing) Two lonely hearts, broken, looking like houses where
nobody lives. Two people each having so much pride inside neither side
forgives.

The angry words spoken in haste, such a waste of two lives. It's my
belief pride’s the chief cause in the decline in the number of husbands
and wives.

A woman and a man, a man and a woman. Some can, some can't, and some
can't.

Two lonely hearts, broken, looking like houses where nobody lives. Two
people each having so much pride inside neither side forgives.

The angry words spoken in haste, such a waste of two lives. It's my
belief pride’s the chief cause in the decline in the number of husbands
and wives.

A woman and a man, a man and a woman. Some can, some can't, and some
can't.

GROSS: That’s John Doe performing in our studio with two members of the
band The Sadies, guitarist Travis Good and bass player Sean Dean.
They’ll be back to perform more songs in the second half of our show.
Here’s a track from their new CD, “Country Club.” It’s a song made
famous by Tammy Wynette. I’m Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of song, “’Till I Get It Right”)

Mr. DOE: (Singing) I’ll just keep on fallin’ in love ‘til I get it
right. Right now I’m like a wounded bird hungry for the sky. If I find
my wings and try hard enough I’m bound to learn to fly. So I'll just
keep on falling in love till I get it right. My door to love has opened
up more times than in.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross back with Joe Doe and two
members of the band the Sadies, guitarist Travis Good and bass player
Sean Dean. They're new CD "Country Club" features country classics and
some originals. John Doe co-founded the great punk bank "X" in the 70s.

John, you know most of the songs you do on the new CD are by other
songwriters. Now you've written so many great songs yourself and I
wonder if you think your style of songwriting is inherently different
from the kind of classic country song that you’re doing on the new CD?

Mr. DOE: I would say my songwriting is quite a bit different. It has a
lot more to do with like poetry, free verse, free association and things
like that. More and more though, I think you write - I'm trying to write
from a intuitive point of view. Rather than taking a piece of music and
some words and putting them together to make a song, start with a piece
of music and just start singing things and just writing it down and
letting it kind of come out rather than constructing it, which is
another way of keeping things interesting, keeping the experiment and
adventure alive, so…

GROSS: I think that like a lot of the country songwriters really had a
sense of craft.

Mr. DOE: Oh yeah.

GROSS: And like they knew what would make a hit, they knew how to put a
catch phrase in, and how to craft that into like a package that would be
really pleasing. And I wonder if in doing country songs you've thought a
lot about the craft of songwriting, and if that's affected your more
kind of poetic approach to songwriting.

Mr. DOE: Hmm. That's some of those tough questions.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: But, I can't get, I can never see a song as something to be
constructed in a conscious way. It's all more subconscious and
intuitive. And then when you’re editing it then you can take a word out
and put another word in and things like that. But you know they - I
think country songs have those great song titles that it sort of writes
itself. There's one somebody said is, what is it? You're a billion light
beers away.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: Or something like that; writes itself.

GROSS: So I'm going to ask you to do one of your own songs.

Mr. DOE: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: And you do a song that you co-wrote with Exene on the new CD, "It
Just Dawned On Me." Do you want to do that one?

Mr. DOE: Sure. Um, it's...

GROSS: But talk about it. Talk it about...

Mr. DOE: Yes. Yes.

GROSS: ... the songwriting process for you and also like the process of
co-writing with her, and as our listeners who followed your career
know...

Mr. DOE: Right.

GROSS: ...that you used to be married. You've divorced like years ago
and...

Mr. DOE: Twenty. Over 20 years. Yes.

GROSS: But you’re still really close. You still...

Mr. DOE: Yes.

GROSS: ...tour together in at least two bands...

Mr. DOE: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: ...and you still write songs together. So tell us a little about
your approach to songwriting and your approach to co-writing.

Mr. DOE: Right. Well actually this is sort of refutes everything that I
just said...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: ... about the way that we write songs because Exene had an idea
about someone who wakes up in the morning and is like well wait a
minute, you were here and now it just dawned on me that you’re gone -
which is sort of like duh...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: One of those revelations that you have and, but it was sort of
like puff, you just evaporated in thin air. And I was going through a
few things, you know, emotionally, and you know someone I was close to
was seeing somebody else and it was this sort of mixed up stuff and then
I just kind of charted it all out, made a little map and you know
luckily there were some chords to go along with it.

GROSS: Well why don't you do the song for us.

Mr. DOE: So this was sort of constructed. Ready?

Band Members: Yes.

Mr. DOE: (singing) One, two, three. You were always there for the last
seven years, sleeping in a bed resting your pretty little head. But you
started sleeping lighter and lighter every night. You were already up
making coffee fore the dawn's early light. While I was happy dreaming in
our happy home, I woke up. I was alone. It just dawned on me, you’re
gone. You’re gone. An old flame caught your eye and whispered in your
ear songs of whiskey dreams to spirit you away from here. Your mama and
your daddy slept in a softer bed. I hope you wind up in the jailhouse
with a cement ball for your head. Because I’ll be happy dreaming in our
happy home. I'll wake up. I'll be alone. It will dawn on me, you’re
gone. Thank God you’re gone.

GROSS: That's great. Okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Joe Doe singing and playing guitar, Travis Good on lead guitar.
And Travis, that's some really great playing, at the risk of saying the
obvious, and Sean Dean on bass. Thank you all. And they're performing
songs from their new CD. It's by Joe Doe and the Sadies and the CD is
called "Country Club" and it's a mix of classic country songs and some
originals, and the song that they just played is an original by John Doe
and Exene Cervenka who used to be - they were the founders of "X", of
the band "X".

So John, before we, before you played that song you were talking about
how your approach to songwriting is usually different from like the
classic country song approach of like craftsmanship, sitting down trying
to write a hit. Do you remember the very first song you ever wrote?

Mr. DOE: Yes I do. I don’t remember the song itself, but it was called
"Stable Boy" and I was being you know...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: ...I was having to rake the yard or something for you know my
parents.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: ...and I felt that I was being oppressed.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: ...like a little slave.

GROSS: So it was like a blues song or something?

Mr. DOE: I don't know what the hell it was.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: It's just something horrible and immediately forgot it after it
was done.

Unidentified Man: Unstable boy.

Mr. DOE: Yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: Unstable boy.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. DOE: That would be a better song.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: You know what? I can, I can play something that Exene and I
wrote that is more free form.

GROSS: Oh great. Okay.

Mr. DOE: It was on a previous one of my records and it's called "Darling
Underdog" which she wrote.

Mr. DOE (singing) Green into gold, black into white. Me into you like
ultraviolet light. Feed me the song. Forgive me I was wrong. Darling
underdog disappearing in the fog. Traffic lights forever changing, red
to greenish blue. Paper as your secrets are underground with you,
underground with you.

And then on and on, blah, blah, blah, blah.

GROSS: That's Joe Doe. He'll be back with two members of the band the
Sadies after a break. They're new CD is called "Country Club." This is
FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Joe Doe. In the 70s he co-founded the famous punk
bank "X." His latest project is a new CD of country classics called
"Country Club," He's backed by the band the Sadies. Two members of the
band are with us, guitarist Travis Good and bass player Sean Dean.

One of the songs on the new CD "Country Club" by John Doe and the Sadies
is written by Travis and his brother Dallas. And it’s a song that Travis
your mother actually duets with Joe Doe on. And so it's a really nice
song and what I want to do is play it from the CD so that we can hear
your mother singing with John. She's got a beautiful voice. Her name is
Margaret Good.

Mr. TRAVIS GOOD (Guitarist for band the Sadies): Yes.

GROSS: And the song is called "Before I Wake." So start off Travis, by
telling us a little bit about writing the song you co-wrote with your
brother. Who did which part?

Mr. GOOD: Yes we all, well we all, the entire band wrote it you know
together. My brother did the lyrics. We all get together with the music
on that one. And you know unlike a lot of the classic country songs that
are very, have a direct message, very - this one's really vague. It's
quite the, it's up to the listener really as much as possible. We often
try to do that when we write songs. And yes, so I guess it's not typical
country, but it has that feel.

GROSS: And your mother has a beautiful voice. I looked her up in
Wikipedia and didn't find anything. So tell us something about her.

Mr. GOOD: She was actually, my whole families all play in bands.
Everyone in the family are in bands and she doesn't do it so much
anymore but she was really the first one in the family to, she was a
singer in a country show in Canada called "The Roy Profit Show," which -
and so she got to backup people like Merle Haggard and Dolly Parton and
everybody. And so she's quite a singer you know, and she's been doing it
for a long time and we've been trying to get her to just do her own
record these days but she's a little shy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Oh I hope she does. She's got a great voice. So let's hear this.
And this is from the CD by Joe Doe and the Sadies. So this is John Doe
dueting with Margaret Good who's the mother of two of the Sadies, Travis
and Dallas Good.

(Soundbite of song, "Before I Wake")

Mr. DOE (singing): Won't you pour out some good night sugar, can’t sit
still or go home.

Ms. MARGARET GOOD (Singer, mother of Travis Good, guitarist for the
Sadies): There won’t be light for hours so the losers can go on and on
and on.

Mr. DOE (singing): Go call someone else 'cause I'm already lost. I can’t
help you and there's no help for me.

Ms. GOOD (singing): I know that it's all over. I can almost
(unintelligible).

Mr. DOE (singing): 'Cause some things nothing can heal.

GROSS: That's a track from the new CD by Joe and the Sadies. It's called
"Before I Wake" and that's John Doe dueting with Margaret Good who's the
mother of Travis and Dallas Good, who are two of the musicians on a CD,
founders of the Sadies. And John, I always the harmonies that you sing.
You sang with, you know, not only Exene, but a bunch of singers over the
years. There's always something unusual about your harmonies.

There's always some, I mean, you know like I said there's certain kinds
of harmonies that like you know those harmony styles. You've heard that.

Mr. DOE: Uh-huh.

GROSS: But I always recognize like your harmonies. There's something, I
don't know what it is. I couldn't describe what's happening
harmonically, but I know it's different than the harmonies most people
sing.

Mr. DOE: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: So what can you say about that?

Mr. DOE: I would say Exene taught me a lot because Exene didn't have a
sort of formal training by playing in bands and listening and mimicking
traditional harmony. And then I learned some and, but I would give The
Band, you know, of Bob Dylan and The Band a lot of credit for how I
approach harmony. It was sort of mountain music, really ragged but
incredibly right. And they would do things where they would sing a half
a line and then stop and let the other person finish the line, and they
would weave in and out and things like that.

And we actually had the good fortune of playing with Garth Hudson in New
York, because he is pals with the Sadies. And it was a real dream come
true. I saw them three times when I was a, you know, 20-year-old
teenager and stuff and they were true heroes of mine. But you know, I
think you learn how to sing with who you grow up singing with, and I
kind of grew up signing with Exene. So I sound better singing with other
people.

GROSS: Now, you also like bend the notes a lot but it doesn’t sound like
you’re copying blues musicians. It’s a different kind of bending of the
note.

Mr. DOE: Just swooping in.

GROSS: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: Don’t want to commit right away and just actually hit the note…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: That way you can cover up…

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: No, but you have really good pitch. So it’s not that.

Mr. DOE: Sometimes, most of the time. But yeah - I don’t know, just kind
of what you come up with. You know, very little of what I’ve done or
what X did or the Sadies and I do is premeditated, just kind of, you
know, nothing is calculated, it just sort of happens.

GROSS: My guests are John Doe and two members of the band the Sadies,
Travis Good and Sean Dean. Their new CD is called “Country Club.”
They’ll perform more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

My guest is John Doe. In the ‘70s he co-founded the now famous punk bank
X. His latest project is a new CD of country music classics called
“Country Club.” He is backed by the band, the Sadies. Two members of the
band are with us, guitarist Travis Good and bass player Sean Dean. John,
I think one of your children now is the age more or less that you were
when you went to LA?

Mr. DOE: Few years younger, yeah.

GROSS: Just a couple, like two or three years younger?

Mr. DOE: Yeah.

GROSS: Yeah. So do you see - like looking at the world through your
daughter’s eyes…

Mr. DOE: Uh-huh…

GROSS: …do you see yourself as the young man differently now? Do you see
how old you were then as being younger than you thought now as a father?

Mr. DOE: Hmm. Well, I think anytime time passes, you see the previous
time as really naïve. And I mean even 10 years ago or five years ago, or
people who have lost their jobs now, a year ago. I did think I had lot
more answers than I really did, but it’s that kind of belief that will
allow you to just go forth and, you know, conquer or, you know, not get
hopefully, you know, thrown in a ditch because you got into a car with
somebody that you shouldn’t have or, you know, all those kinds of
things. I do believe in providence.

GROSS: Do you?

Mr. DOE: Kind of looking after you, yeah.

GROSS: In a religious way or just in a fate way?

Mr. DOE: Fate, yeah. And karma sort of. I believe that if you have a
good outlook and you’re going forward and you believe that things are
going to be all right and you’re – you know, may be that’s Zen, then
it’s going to be okay. And if you think things are going to go bad, then
they will.

GROSS: I’m going to end by asking you, John, to do a song that I know is
not featured on your new CD but I know you are doing it on a tour that
you’re doing now and it kind of fits with the tone of the new CD. It’s
an original called “A Little More Time,” from your solo album, “A Year
In The Wilderness.” I listen to this song and I always figure there’s a
story behind it, and I can’t quite figure out like what the story is. So
is there a story behind the song or…

Mr. DOE: There’s a story behind every song. But yeah, there is.

GROSS: Would you tell it?

Mr. DOE: Yeah. Two - one person is my daughter in the song, the other
person is someone very much I’m love with, and I wasn’t able to spend
time with - enough time with either one. And once your kids start
growing up and time passes, even with the relationship, whether it’s
your kid or not, you realize that as you do each thing like what we’re
doing right now, this is the only time we’re going to do that. You know,
I was on your show 15 years ago but I’m never going to be here again,
and that’s sort of a wonderful and a little bit scary - not really, but
it’s, you know, got to make sure that you’re here to be a part of that,
so…

GROSS: Fits in with the fate and Zen kind of thing you’re…

Mr. DOE: Yeah, exactly.

GROSS: …talking about.

Mr. DOE: Yeah. You have to enjoy it while it’s going on because
otherwise, if you’re thinking about the future or the past, then you’re
not here. So…

(Soundbite of guitar)

Mr. DOE: So anyway…

GROSS: Would you do the song for us?

Mr. DOE: Yeah, absolutely.

(Soundbite of song, “A Little More Time”)

Mr. DOE: (Singing) There was a time, when the sunshine played in your
soft blonde hair, reflected in your golden eyes. You lean back your head
and you laugh about tomorrow. And then it came like a new day, the sun
in the sky high beam, water sparkled down the stream. We knew this would
all go away, but not today. And when it did, you are better, better than
the day you born. Not quite so perfectly formed, the only wish I had
that day, that it would stay. Just a little more time with you, with me,
with you. Just a little more time, with you, with me, with me. Just a
little more time, with you and me. Down by the stream in the mountain, I
promised you faithfully that I would never leave. If and when I went
away, I’d still protect you.

And now I’m gone, and the loose ends are strings hanging from my hand,
tied to an empty land, stuck on a steering wheel in Nebraska,
(unintelligible) so baby call me, just before you go to bed, before you
lay down your head, or if you need an old fashioned cry, I’m the guy.
Just a little more time with you, with me, with you. Just a little more
time, with you, with me, with you. Just a little more time with you and
me. There was a time…

GROSS: That’s a really beautiful song.

Mr. DOE: Thank you.

GROSS: Were you on the road when you wrote it?

Mr. DOE: Part of it, yeah.

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. DOE: But you know, the well is deep. You can always go back there
and see what it’s like.

GROSS: Right, right. John, one more question. Like when you started
performing with X and you were in your 20s and part of like this new
punk scene in LA, were there parts of your past that you weren’t
comfortable with in terms of like your public persona that you’re just
like fine with now? Do you know what I mean? Like when people are
inventing themselves…

Mr. DOE: Yes.

GROSS: …that there’s usually like the stuff you want to put out there
and the stuff you don’t want anyone to know.

Mr. DOE: You know what – that happened just a year and a half ago, where
I was doing a – I did an interview with a friend, journalist. And we
just talked about all sorts of stuff and I expected him to sort of
filter out some of the things we were talking about which were, you
know, about when I grew up in Baltimore and stuff like that. And he kind
of did this really long piece and it was fully like – and I was like,
hahhhh. And it was like, they used my given last name…

GROSS: First name…

Mr. DOE: Yeah, Duchac, which is hard to pronounce, and it’s Czech and
stuff like that. I don’t care about it now, but it was like meet John
Duchac and it was like, I was so outed. And then at sound check there
were like guys that I haven’t seen in 20, 30 years, and it was like, I
don’t know if I necessarily want to see you from seventh grade. And it
was sort of like the Facebook that was a daily giveaway, you know,
weekly giveaway paper.

I think everybody in the punk rock world drew a line and said this is
now and that was then. And then you can, then - pretty for us - pretty
quickly we started going back to pull from blue songs and pull from
country songs and pull from old rock and roll songs. But I think
everybody is a little weird about who they were when they were in sixth
and seventh grade.

GROSS: Well, it has just been great to have you all here. I’m so
grateful to you for performing for us. I really, really enjoyed it.
Thank you so much.

Mr. DOE: It’s an honor, it’s an honor, you know.

GROSS: John Doe and the Sadies have a new CD called “Country Club.” Two
of the Sadies backed up John Doe today, guitarist Travis Good and bass
player Sean Dean. You can download podcasts of our show on our Web site:
freshair.npr.org.
..COST:
$00.00
..INDX:
104295072
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

You May Also like

Did you know you can create a shareable playlist?

Advertisement

Recently on Fresh Air Available to Play on NPR

52:30

At your service: A restaurant maître d' tells all in 'Your Table Is Ready'

Michael Cecchi-Azzolina talks about what it's like to be a Maitre D' at the fanciest restaurants in New York City. He has worked in the business for three decades telling wealthy diners, celebrities and even the mafia whether or not they can have the table by the window. His memoir is called Your Table is Ready.

52:30

'Monuments to the Unthinkable' explores how nations can memorialize their atrocities

In How the Word Is Passed, author Clint Smith explored U.S. sites that deal with the legacy of slavery. Now, in The Atlantic, he writes about German memorials to the Holocaust.

42:42

Journalist Maria Ressa explains 'How to Stand Up to a Dictator'

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning journalist faced criminal charges in the Philippines after her news site's reporting angered government officials. How to Stand Up to a Dictator is her new memoir.

There are more than 22,000 Fresh Air segments.

Let us help you find exactly what you want to hear.
Just play me something
Your Queue

Would you like to make a playlist based on your queue?

Generate & Share View/Edit Your Queue