The 33 best quotes from Tom Waits


Tom Waits is one of the most interesting musical figures of the past 100 years.

When he came on the scene he was a crooner, pop star. He was a handsome songwriter who played the piano, wore dashing hats and smoked cigarettes. But soon Waits learned to forgo these traditional prints for the sake of the weird.

He changed his approach. He leaned into his grittier side, his raw voice, not the polished one he had previously offered to audiences. He became a vaudevillian. And that’s how he became a legend.

Where he was once seen as the next Bob Dylan (along with Bruce Springsteen), the 72-year-old Californian is now the only Tom Waits. He is also one of the most accomplished and beloved songwriters in American history.

But through it all, what did Waits have to say about the world at large, about love and life, about his craft and his relationship to his surroundings? That’s exactly what we’re going to dive into here today.

So, without further ado, here are the best quotes from X Tom Waits.

1. “Most songs that aren’t skipping songs or lullabies are cautionary tales or goodbye songs and road songs.”

2. “The music has generally involved a lot of awkward gear, a certain amount of heavy lifting.”

3. “Most songs have meager beginnings. You wake up in the morning, put on your braces, and subvocalize and just think. They seem to form like calcium. I can’t think of a story right off the bat that was also interesting. I write things on the back of my hand, usually, and I sing into a tape recorder.

4. “You hope people will listen to you after you leave. And they like you better after you’re gone.

5. “If you save, you save. I don’t believe there is such a thing as a demo or temporary voice.

6. “I’m usually more concerned with how things sound than how they look on the page. Some people write for the page, and that’s a whole other thing. I’m going to how it looks right now, so it might not even look good on the page.

7. “One day I’ll be gone and people will listen to my songs and talk about me. For that to happen, you have to put something of yourself into it.

8. “I used to imagine that success in music – really success in music – is if you’re an old man walking through a schoolyard and you hear kids singing your songs, playing jumping rope or on the swings. It’s the ultimate. You’re in the culture.

9. “People say all kinds of things about the ingredients of songs. But you know they’re kind of magic, in the sense that they can easily include a stain on your bedroom wall…and a variety of bad memories. And then you name her after a girl you just made up.

10. “If you make a record, you’re the one saying ‘action’, and you’re the one saying ‘cut’, and you have to be sure that the most interesting thing doesn’t happen outside the frame. “

11. “When you’re a kid trying to find your own voice, it’s kind of intimidating to hear someone like Howlin’ Wolf, because you know you’ll never get there.”

12. “All records are riddles, and whatever you want people to think it may just throw them off. And you don’t want it to get in the way of someone else’s understanding. It’s not about really about anything. At the same time, it will find meaning.

13. “I’d rather have a free bottle in front of me than a prefrontal lobotomy.”

14. “We are buried under the weight of information, which merges with knowledge; quantity is confused with abundance and wealth with happiness.

15. “I’m so excited dawn better watch out.”

16. “Most people don’t care if you tell them the truth or if you tell them a lie, as long as it amuses them. You find out very quickly.

17. “I hate Disneyland. It prepares our kids for Las Vegas.

18. “When you write, you conjure. It’s a ritual, and you have to be brave and respectful and sometimes walk away from whatever you’re inviting into the room.

19. “For a songwriter, you don’t really go to songwriting school; you learn by listening to tunes. And you try to figure them out and take them apart and see what they’re made of, and you wonder if you can make one too.

20. “Champagne for my real friends and real pain for my fake friends.”

21. “Don’t look back, because someone might win you over.”

22. “I saw a crow building a nest, I was watching it very carefully, sort of stalking it and it was aware of it. And you know what they do when they realize someone is stalking them. when they build a nest, which is a very vulnerable place? They build a decoy nest. It’s just for you.

23. “I’ve always had a great appreciation for jazz, but I’m a very pedestrian musician. I get by. I like to think that my main instrument is vocabulary.

24. “Most of the time I straddle reality and imagination. My reality needs imagination like a light bulb needs a socket. My imagination needs reality like a blind man needs a cane.

25. “I bark my voice through a closed throat, pretty much. It’s more, maybe, like a dog in some ways. It has its limits, but I’m learning different ways to keep it alive. .

26. “I look for things that are left of center, something you’ve only seen your whole life, but never heard. Hit it! With a stick! I have a guitar made from a 2×4 I bought in Cleveland.

27. “Writing songs is like catching birds without killing them. Sometimes you end up with nothing but a mouthful of feathers.

28. “I have an audio stigma that I hear things wrong – I have audio delusions.”

29. “The songs are really like a form of time travel because they really went forward in a bubble. Everyone connected to it, the studio is gone, the musicians are gone, and the only thing left is this recording that was only about three minutes long maybe 70 years ago.

30. “I think this whole genre divide has more to do with marketing than anything. It’s terrible for music culture.

31. “I knelt at the Ray Charles altar for years. I worked in a restaurant, and that’s all there was on the jukebox.

32. “If you record the sound of bacon in a frying pan and play it back, it sounds like the pops and crackles of an old 33 1/3 recording. Almost exactly like that. You could replace it with this sound .

33. “If you’re a writer, you know stories don’t come to you — you have to go get them.” The old men in the hall: that’s where the stories were.

Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic


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