John Hiatt‘s latest, Leftover Feelings, is a collab with bluegrass great Jerry Douglas, with Jerry as producer and his band as backup. John digs into some serious past memories for these songs, which include a song about his older brother Michael. Michael died by suicide when John was only 9 and it’s only until now when he’s chosen to write about the experience in the song “Light of the Burning Sun.” Jerry knew that the material was very serious and approached it very lovingly with John and the band. On the pod, John expands on his grief and giving himself the time and space to mourn. We also talk about the importance of radio in John’s young life: he would listen to WLAC Radio from Nashville as a kid. There was a gospel show on Sunday night, where they’d go to a different Black church every week and broadcast the service. John has said “Those gospel shows used to scare the shit out of me.” That opened his world to a completely different way to relate to music in terms of faith.
John picked up the guitar at 11 years old to cope with the trauma involved in being an overweight child. This was especially hard because he was a bigger kid at a time when it was rare for a child to be heavier. He discusses how music and, surprisingly, how drugs and alcohol helped him overcome his weight issue. Which then of course, the drugs and alcohol led him to new problems in his adult years, requiring him to overcome that addiction and live a sober life. John talks about his kids, who includes the musician Lilly Hiatt. Lilly said in an interview once: “I was crying over the fact that my career seemed stalled and I wasn’t the flavor of the month, and dad said, ‘Lilly, we will never be hip. We’re just not those people.’” John’s been a steadfast songwriter since the 70’s who’s written many well loved songs like “Have a Little Faith in Me,” “Cry Love” and, of course, “Thing Called Love.” The writing on his latest album spans several decades and confronts some of his most vulnerable feelings.
To be able to talk to John Hiatt about this project was a sincere privilege and I hope you enjoy!