Interview: James McMurtry

James McMurtry: Great American Songwriter

Who, might you ask, is James McMurtry? While not very well-known outside of the US and Europe, McMurtry is regarded by many as one of the greatest living songwriters. As the son of novelist and screenwriter Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove, The Last Picture Show, Brokeback Mountain), a strong focus on words would be expected, but as a songwriter James McMurtry’s lyrics are filled with sharp observations, vivid human portraits and literary precision to match the most compelling prose stylists. He can also rock an acoustic or electric guitar like nobody’s business.

While in Austin recently, I had the good fortune of sitting down with him face to face at The Austin Motel after one of his weekly solo sets at The Continental Hotel. He spoke to me about his craft, politics and plans to record an album later this year with Lil Band O’ Gold’s CC Adcock. All going well, we might expect to see him in Australia in the not too distant future.

“Any song I write usually starts with two lines and a melody, and if it’s cool enough to keep me up at night then I finish the song.” — James McMurtry

Five James McMurtry songs everyone should know

1. We Can’t Make It Here

2. Rachel’s Song

3. Choctaw Bongo

4. Levelland

5. Ruby and Carlos

About Les Thomas 106 Articles
Narrm/Melbourne singer-songwriter and Unpaved editor