"Long black limousine, shiniest I've ever seen/ the back seat is nice and clean/ she rides as quite as a dream." - Long Ride Home - Patty Griffin.

Patty Griffin was on top of the world when she moved to Austin, Texas, after her song Long Ride Home was used as the musical focus of acclaimed Cameron Crowe movie Elizabethtown.

The much-travelled Maine minstrel wrote the song more than a decade ago in a short creative burst in Nashville.

"I bought a guitar in Nashville in 1995, was sitting in my former manager's kitchen and it came right out of my guitar," Griffin told Nu Country TV on the eve of her first Australian tour.

"It took just an hour. Cameron got that song from Dave Marsh - his fellow Rolling Stone music writer. He was a fan of mine and championed that record."

Although the song was used to illustrate the return of Crowe's lead character's from Los Angeles to Kentucky it was not biographical for Griffin.

"The song was complete fiction for me," Griffin, now 42, said, "Cameron's father had Kentucky roots and he discovered things about his father he didn't know."

Griffin is indebted to movie directors and major artists for keeping wolves from her door by cutting her songs when her career was in limbo.

Ironically, her biggest earners were two songs on stillborn album Silver Bell recorded at Daniel Lanois's Kingsway studio in New Orleans.

"It was recorded in 2000," she says of Silver Bell that suffered the same fate as yet another disc recorded around the time of her 1996 debut disc Living With Ghosts.

"It was accepted by the label that I ended up on after the first corporate takeover," Griffin says.

"Then the label was bought again, and I ended up with a new regime, and they told me that they did not like the record at all. My manager figured out a nice way to get me out
of there without owing a lot of money."


"I wished I was smarter/ I wished I was stronger/ I'd wished I'd loves Jesus the way my wife does." - Top Of The World - Patty Griffin

"I was on the road with the Dixie Chicks and gave them a tape of Silver Bell that had Top Of The World and Truth #2 on it, " Griffin revealed.

"Natalie Maines is such a great singer. Their arrangement of Top Of The World is so similar to my original. I re-arranged my version for new album Impossible Dream."

Griffin also included her live duet with Emmylou Harris on Truth #2 as one of three bonus tracks on Impossible Dream (ATO-Shock.)

"That was pretty nice, it worked out well," Griffin said.

Photo by Ron Baker

"When the album was rejected it was like a complete waste of a month of my life - being put off by your record label because they didn't like the album."

The Dixie Chicks also chose Griffin's 1996 tune Fly as the title track of their fifth album and she reprised it on her 2003 live disc A Kiss In Time.


The singer belatedly learned during our interview that Kasey Chambers also cut a live version of Top Of The World on a Pay TV concert disc at Sydney Opera House.

"I wasn't aware of that," Griffin said.

"I met Kasey through her tour manager Greg Wilkinson. She's always coming over here. I was floored when I saw her perform - she's great. I was thrilled. I didn't know she covered one of my songs."

Griffin, the youngest of seven children from Old Town, near Bangor, Maine, worked folk clubs and bars near the Canadian border.

She began playing guitar at 16 and spent two years in Florida but it was in Boston she met her husband, who encouraged her music, before they split in 1993.

"It took me a while to recover but there's always an equal and opposite reaction," said the singer who worked as a waitress to make ends meet between gigs in Boston.

"You grow out of it. There are no dramas. I'm living happily now."

Griffin recorded her debut disc Living With Ghosts in 1996 and released Flaming Red for A & M in 1998.

Griffin recorded the latter with producer Jay Joyce without the label's knowledge but it was released anyway - unlike Silver Bell.

During her hiatus she had her songs covered by artists diverse as Bette Midler, Dixie Chicks and Emmylou Harris.

"I was very lucky from the publishing end," Griffin says.

"I didn't have to go and tour incessantly. In those years that I was held up, I got to rest a little bit thanks to people picking my songs. Plus, it's nice that other people who are talented would even consider doing that."


Mary Chapin Carpenter recorded Griffin song My Dear Old Friend for the soundtrack of We Were Soldiers.

"We were both managed by the same guy," Griffin recalled.

"They were looking for names and songs. She had the name and I had the song - she did a great version of that."

Another Griffin song Twisted Road surfaced on the soundtrack of the Susan Sarandon movie Anywhere But Here.

"I didn't think anyone heard that song," Griffin explained.

"I was listening to Iggy Pop at the time and they wanted that kind of sound. It was the year of Ever Clear and the mixer du jour of that year. I'm not really crazy about how it ended up sounding but I sure had fun recording it."

Dave Matthews rescued Griffin from her recording hiatus and signed her to his ATO label after sharing an Austin City Limits stage with her.

Matthews signed Griffin to his new ATO label for 1000 Kisses that she produced with guitarist Doug Lancio at his Basement Studio in Nashville from April 21-27, 2001.

As well as her originals it included Springsteen song Stolen Car and Lonnie Johnson's 1948 R&B hit Tomorrow Night, learned from a 1992 Bob Dylan recording.

She also cut as her finale - Mil Besos (Spanish for 1000 Kisses) - a Tejano ballad cut at the suggestion of keyboardist Michael Ramos.


Success of the disc persuaded Griffin to return to Nashville for a live concert at the famed Grand Ole Opry mother church - Ryman Auditorium - on January 30, 2003.

The concert, with Lancio on guitar, Ramos, bassist Dave Jacques and drummer Bryan Owings, was never intended for release.

The concert reprised three songs - Rain, Be Careful and Long Ride Home - from her studio album.

But Matthews heard the tapes - also featuring guest vocalist Emmylou Harris - and insisted on release with bonus video clips of Rain and Chief and interview on DVD.

It was Emmylou who introduced Griffin to Buddy and Julie Miller in 1996.

"Emmylou said I'm bringing two friends to your concert, they love your music," Griffin recalled of the Millers who guested with Emmylou on Impossible Dream.

"I did a benefit for the homeless in Austin recently with Buddy Miller."


"Let's write a story of a tidal wave/ we run out of luck, we run out of days/ we run out of gas, a hundred miles away from a station/ there's a war and a plague, smoke and disaster." - Throw A Line - Patty Griffin

Griffin has a recurring water theme in many of her songs - especially Throw A Line, entrée of her new Craig Ross produced album Impossible Dream.

"It was only when I played Tsunami and hurricane relief concerts that I discovered I had so many songs with water themes of natural disasters," she revealed.

"They were so inappropriate for the benefits. It was only then I discovered how much I used that imagery. Rain was written about the Austin floods but Throw A Line just used that metaphor."

The song is one of the Griffin tunes illustrated by a video clip.

Another new song Cold As It Gets had a more historic source.

"Cold As It Gets was inspired by U.S. Prisoners of War in World War 11," Griffin revealed.

'They were taken to a concentration camp in Berger because they were Jewish. It was inspired by one of the stories on a TV documentary that was very well done."


"Red lights are flashing on the highway/ I wonder if we're ever gonna get home/ I wonder if we're gonna get home tonight/ everywhere the water's getting rough." - When It Don't Come Easy - Patty Griffin

When It Don't Come Easy had its roots in the aftermath of 9-11.

"At first after 9-11 there was massive upheaval in this country," Griffin recalled.

"For a moment we seemed united then the war mongering began and the country got incredibly divided. You can feel it on the streets - the level of rage is palpable. It's just exhausting - very difficult to understand."

What, even in Texan state capital Austin?

"Austin is like a liberal island in the middle of the state," Griffin explained.

"I think Austin liberals are a different slice of Texas. For a while the politics got incredibly nasty, now it seems to be turning a corner.

The nasty politicians got their comeuppance."


So will Patty be voting for singing Texan crime novelist Kinky Friedman in the Texan Gubernatorial campaign?

"Yes, I will be voting for Kinky," Patty purred.

"I think it's definitely a long shot but Austin will probably vote for Kinky."

What about his spiritual adviser Billy Joe Shaver - the singing actor and heart by-pass survivor?

"I got to hug Billy Joe once at a Willie Nelson July 4 picnic," she laughed.

"He was on the road again to recovery."

Griffin plans to record her sixth album in March and tour here mid-year to promote it.

"I have plenty of new songs written," she added.

"My new songs are my little babies and need to be nurtured."

And that Australian tour?

"We were hoping to come in April but it's more likely to be July or August," said Patty whose video clips will be featured in Series #5 of Nu Country TV.

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