is a podcast that turns stories into songs, featuring David Gilmour, Joyce Carol Oates, Steve Earle, Roxane Gay, Amanda Shires, Susan Orlean and Katie Melua. You can hear an exclusive preview of next week’s episode featuring Tom Franklin and Ben Glover, only at Paste.
Tom Franklin is a proudly Southern author, and he has found that his sense of place and identity is firmly fixed.
“It’s lodged there,” Franklin says, “And I just can’t get away from it, away from certain events there, some of them not good. The place haunts me.”
For this week’s episode, Franklin reads two pieces of short fiction. These are sometimes referred to as flash fiction or shorts, and like the best songs, they are works of radical compression. In fact, it is the limitation of the form that keeps Franklin intrigued.
“I find it quite hard to make one that works,” Franklin says. “With so few words you really can’t let anything go astray. Everything has to be right on the mark.”
Songwriter Ben Glover is from Ireland, but like Franklin, he has a deep connection to the American South. Glover described a connection he experiences, an invisible, almost-spiritual bond between Ireland and the South.
“I do believe it’s the turbulent history of the two places,” Glover says. “Coming from the north of Ireland, where I grew up, it’s always been a troubled country. It sharpens your senses, especially when you go into other places that may have had a turbulent history.”
Glover struggled to encapsulate Franklin’s two pieces into the song he wrote in response. In part this was because—like a lot of the people in Franklin’s work—the characters in these pieces are difficult, unruly and fierce.
“[Franklin] creates these characters that are deeply flawed, and they’re suffering,” Glover says. “Do I really like these characters? I’m not sure I do.”
The key to Glover’s song, which was written with his band, The Orphan Brigade, was in embracing the hardest parts of the stories.
There’s something very endearing about the darkness,” Glover argues, “Because that’s where compassion can arise … in a weird way, when I’m writing about the darkness, I’m also writing about the light, too. Because it’s all the same thing.”
Ben Arthur (@MyHeart on Twitter) is the creator and host of SongWriter. His latest song, “Persistent Ghosts,” is about traumatic memory.