On Rodney Crowell by John Paul White
by John Paul White
The first time I met Rodney Crowell, I don’t even remember it. He does. He told me that when the Civil Wars were standing at the center platform at the Grammys preparing to go up and perform, his seat was next to it. He quipped, “Let me hold that guitar for ya.” He says I looked him in the face and smiled. I have absolutely no recollection of that at all. If I hadn’t been wired to the gills with adrenaline, I would’ve probably giggled and blushed like a child. And given him the guitar.
Mr. Crowell (he’ll hate that I call him that) has always been the gold standard for me as a singer/songwriter. I’ve always looked to artists like him - and Emmylou, and Rosanne, and Kris, among others - as a beacon by which to navigate. They mastered the delicate balancing act between country and pop, between craft and commerciality, between gravitas and humor. He’s one of the people that showed me that you don’t necessarily have to fit. As a matter of fact, he proved that those that don’t fit can thrive. They most definitely can matter.
His songs are so carefully crafted, so painstakingly articulated - but also seemingly effortless and conversational. His lyrics could exist on their own as poetry, but thank the heavens they don’t. When they’re paired with his timeless melodies and crafty voice, they carry a weight that no mere words can imbue. It’s a bar that all my songs fail to meet - but I’ll never stop trying.
The first time I heard his voice, I was a kid on some Tennessee backroad in my dad’s pickup - and Rodney was seamlessly blending harmonies with Emmylou Harris on the radio as a member of the fabled Hot Band. The last time I heard it, he was blending his voice with mine. It’s hard to believe that when I call him a role model, a hero, a touchstone - I can now add the title “friend”. I’m soaking up every square inch of every moment I spend at his knee. Cause one day I wanna grow up and be Rodney Crowell.
One can dream.