On her new album Bristol County Tides, Annie Keating finds commonality in the human spirit and explores the power of vulnerablility -- something she says she learned from the late songwriting legend, John Prine.
"My favorite song is 'I Remember Everything' by John Prine," Keating tells Wide Open Country. "It was the last song he wrote before he died during the pandemic and I remember when I'd heard he was sick and in the hospital, I played his songs every day on my guitar. I started videotaping them on my phone and posting just as a way of sending the love out there. Prine is my favorite songwriter. In fact, his songwriting inspired my new album, Bristol County Tides. The new single 'Nobody Knows' was largely inspired by listening to JP during the early days of the pandemic. I remember Jason Isbell did an interview with Prine in which he said the secret was to 'stay vulnerable.' I was particularly moved by that because often -- especially with men -- vulnerability can be seen as a weakness. But Prine realized it's a strength and that notion found its way into the liner notes of my new album where I say, "In the wise words of John Prine (RIP dearest songwriter lost to COVID), 'Stay vulnerable.' It is an artist's one real job - to remain vulnerable open and true."
Keating says the song still hits her as hard as it did the day she first heard it.
"When I first heard this song "I Remember Everything" I had to sit down. Honestly. It was so vulnerable and true, it kind of knocked the wind out of me," Keating continues. "These lines from it still give me goosebumps on the hundredth listen: I remember everything, things I can't forget/ The way you turned and smiled on me on the night that we first met/ And I remember every night, your ocean eyes of blue/ How I miss you in the morning light/ Like roses miss the dew." That last turn of phrase 'How I miss you in the morning light, like roses miss the dew' is to me the true stroke of genius. I'd never think to pen lyrics like that. Maybe I'd think 'roses miss the rain' or 'roses miss the sunshin' but the word DEW. It's just perfect. Tender and unexpected, echoing the morning light and the songwriter's longing for that person he misses in the song."
Keating praised Prine's ability to make listeners feel understood and connected, while penning lyrics only he could write.
"I think the best songwriting is specific (in its imagery and the songwriter's experience/perspective) but also universal in the feelings it generates in the listener. Songs that somehow feel both universal and deeply personal. Those are the ones that get me in the chest," Keating says. "Prine can make me laugh out loud. And he can make me cry. But most of all, his songs make me feel better - somehow more understood and less lonely -- because he connects to the listener with compassion, love, and humor. For me, his work demonstrates time and time again the power that great music has to enchant, inspire, move, and connect us in the vast sea of humanity with all its challenges. His songs make me remember that the other side of heartbreak is wholeheartedness and that there can be no real joy without sadness. It's all connected and part of the journey."
Bristol County Tides, featuring the single "Kindred Spirit," is Keating's eighth full-length studio album.