The Writing of the Saltwater Album: ROADTRIP WITH ARLO GUTHRIE!
So – how does a girl feel when she is about to sit in a room with her hero, a couple of guitars and a blank page, with the illustrious plan to write a song together for the first time?! As much as Arlo has a knack for making a person feel relaxed – I have to say I was definitely nervous! When I first boarded the plane in Sydney, the feeling was almost to the level of mild panic, to be honest! It didn’t help that the crammed notebook of brilliant ideas that I had planned to create in advance, and bring along with me was still almost empty by the time I boarded the plane to the States! I was still brainstorming on the plane so that I would at least be arriving with something to start with!
I met up with Arlo in New Orleans – my plane from LA was delayed, but I just got off the plane in time to find my way to the Jazz Festival and the right stage to catch the end of Arlo’s show… I hadn’t seen him play since the last tour we did together in Australia, and having seen his show countless times on a few different tours, I am even more of a fan now as I was the first time I saw him play and was blown away. His songs, storytelling and the way he weaves the profound with the humorously inane are masterful. I was pretty stoked when Arlo and the whole band came back on for an extended encore and I got to hear a couple of classics after all… My Peace and City of New Orleans…
After some to-ing and fro-ing and saying goodbye to my dear friend Abe Guthrie, who was flying back north, the legendary Walt climbed into the driver’s seat to drive us through the night for over ten hours in Arlo’s tour bus from the New Orleans Jazz Festival through Alabama to Florida. I managed to get a bit of sleep overnight on the white leather couch, and I thought that the evening may quite possibly be my most rock and roll moment to date. I forgot to be nervous.
I got even less nervous when we got to Arlo’s place in Florida, and I was greeted with a hug by one of my all-time favourite people, Arlo’s beautiful wife Jackie. It was so good to see her again, to me she is a Native American goddess, so beautiful and wise. Jackie is one of only two people in the world, who I call my ‘other Mum’.
That night at about ten o’clock, it was dark but still warm and humid, as Florida can be. I decided to take up Arlo and Jackie’s suggestion and go for a night-time swim in their saltwater pool. I am endlessly fascinated by water, I can never be bored by it. I lost track of time in there by myself swimming laps underwater, looking at the colourful lights. As I got out of the pool, the random thought occurred to me how good saltwater pools are – the water is actually good for your skin, and your hair won’t go green from the chlorine! The words ‘saltwater in my hair’ popped into my head, and immediately I saw images in my mind of camping memories at the beach back home, jamming with my beautiful family and friends. It was definitely a ‘muse’ moment. I quickly dried myself off, went in and found my guitar and quietly recorded the first two lines of Saltwater in My Hair on my phone.
I was so relieved! The next morning we had planned to have our first songwriting session. My random swim had given me a fresh song starting point that I liked and was meaningful to me, with music and lyrics, to show to Arlo in the morning to see whether he was into it too…