“You write what you know,” Rod Picott says. Simple advice and advice every writer has heard before. But for all its simplicity, it’s actually true, and something Picott proves admirably on his new double album, ‘Out Past the Wires.’ Anyone who chooses to listen (and my advice: choose to listen) gets a peek into something Picott knows really, really well: human nature.
Now nearly into his second decade of songwriting, ‘Out Past the Wires’ offers Picott a chance to spread his storytelling wings a little bit: he has also written an accompanying book of short fiction to go along with the collection. Each short story is titled after a song on the album, an exercise that’s allowed this creative musician and writer to take the characters he creates with his acoustic guitar and gravelly voice and develop them into fully-fleshed out examples of the people we all know and love.
“Primer Gray” is a good example. With images of cars up on blocks, rust and chrome, lacquer and flames, Picott creates a character you’ve met before: your dad or your grandfather, your brother or son or best friend’s uncle. Whomever it is, he’s a hardworking man who’s trying his best to make a life for himself and his family, a hardworking man who has come to the conclusion, maybe after years of fighting with it, that in our material, greedy world, usually, the important stuff’s on the inside: “I’m only worried about what’s underneath,” Picott sings. “What she looks like don’t mean a thing to me.”
Primer Gray by Rod Picott from ‘Out Past the Wires’ (Mezcalita Press)
So I been getting the old Pontiac ready for my kid lately. That’s a good ride, a Pontiac. Been trying to find the original color even, but the code they give me don’t look right. So I’m just gonna shoot a coat of primer for now. If I find that great old Pontiac green someday, I’ll paint it up.
My kid? All his friends have those rodded-up Hondas. They sound like damn chainsaws. Drives me crazy. They’re fast, yeah, but they got no power, you know? I mean real power. Now that old LeMans has got eight big pistons just banging away under that hood. That’s what a car oughta sound like right there. So anyways, like I said, I been gettin’ the Pontiac all fixed up for Charles.