Kevin Welch

"I was raised on the road/ staring down the line/got my education/ reading those highway signs" - I Am No Drifter - Kevin Welch.

When prolific writers Kevin Welch and Michael Henderson wrote a song at a boys' night out they celebrated with a game of snooker and promptly forgot about it.

That was until they learned that How Bad Do You Want It had been recorded by hot new Nashville band Trick Pony.

The song could be Welch's most lucrative since Oklahoma born superstar Garth Brooks de-composed his song Pushin' Up Daisies and Chris LeDoux cut Millionaire.
"It was a little tune we had forgotten," Welch, 48, told Nu Country from Brisbane on his fifth Australian tour.

"We totally forgot all about it. Henderson is the only guy I do that with, it's like a boys' night out. We go out to Henderson's place and write a song that we don't care if neither of us cuts it or not. We write a song and then we shoot snooker."


"There was a young woman I loved her well/ she was all my eyes could see/ for all I could do, her heart was never true/ still I could not leave her be/ I found her in bed with another man/ I killed him in his sleep, I was quick with him/ but she died only when she awoke and she began to weep." - 'Glorious Bounties' - Dustin and Kevin Welch.

Welch has far more vivid memories of writing with his son Dustin about whom he wrote Song For Dustin for his debut album in 1990.

"I got him a Merle Haggard cassette when he was 10 and thought I was out of my mind," Welch says of an era that produced other family songs.

"Till I See You Again' was also written to my children and 'Till I'm Too Old To Die Young' (a hit for Texan cowboy singer Moe Bandy) was written when my daughter Savanna was born. It's all about how mortal we feel."

The duo wrote Glorious Bounties for Welch's disc Millionaire and a new tune that may surface on a Welch-Kieran Kane duet studio disc after he returns to Nashville.

"We wrote a song called Joy," Welch revealed, "if no-one else cuts I probably will. Dustin and Justin Earle are working on a record produced by Justin's father Steve for their band Justin Earle & His Swindlers. It's not as dark as Glorious Bounties. I really like the song. I want to do something with it. I don't do much co-writing with anyone now."

Welch is fiercely proud of the writing of Dustin whose band with Justin includes Travis Nicholson, son of Fort Worth born writer Gary Nicholson.

Nicholson has written many hits including Lee Roy Parnell's former Seven Network AFL TV footy theme 'If The House Is Rockin' (Don't Bother Knockin'.)

"The whole generational thing is really rocking," says Welch who is amazed by his son's imagery on 'Glorious Bounties' - a cheating song with a double murder finale - from The Millionaire album.

"Dustin wrote most of the lyrics," Welch confessed, "I was more an editor. I sliced and diced. It's ice cold, isn't it? He's a helluva writer. I can't help smiling when I'm singing that verse."


Will Welch expand his 500-song plus catalogue with his partner Claudia Scott?

"Claudia and I have written together but not for a while," Welch says, "she's over in a long term musical in Norway about a Swedish songwriter Speswich. He was a national hero who died about 20 years ago. The play is about his family and songs. It's a big hit, could be going on for a while."

So will this inspire Welch, born in Long Beach, California, but forced to move homes 70 times before he was 17 because of the work of his aircraft mechanic father, to explore the tyranny of distance and absence in a new song?

"Maybe," quipped Welch who says he doesn't write much while on tour.

Not even in Australia where he is touring with Sydney band The Flood to promote their CD, Live Down Here On Earth on Shock Records.

Welch recorded fifth album Millionaire with The Danes, and cut the live disc with The Flood after they teamed with him at Gympie Muster.

"I also wrote Breakfast Wines And Whiskey Dinners here," Welch recalled, "I wrote it just for the Loxley winery gig. It was the last time I played it. I mainly write at home."

Welch and Kane cut a live album at the now defunct Continental Café in Prahran in 1999 and have plenty of songs for their new project.

"We've just got songs laying around but what always seems to happen when I'm about to record is I write a couple of songs right before the session," Welch confessed, "those will turn out to be among my favourites and are recorded then."

Although Welch is a prolific writer he also guests on peers' albums as a singer.


The latest was It's Not About The Money by Reckless Johnny Wales, better known as former Warner Music promotions wiz kid Bob Saporiti.

"Yeah, I went in and sang on one song," Welch confessed, "Bob Saporiti is a dear friend of mine and I was thrilled to come across a real good review of that in Mojo. It was really cool. Me and Saproiti used to travel together when he was at Warner Bros. We travelled all over the world together. He was the guy who came up with the term Western Beat."
Western Beat was the title of Welch's 1992 album and also a name given to Billy Block's roots country radio and TV show.

"He was one of the few guys at Warners who had any juice back then," Welch recalled.
Also on the disc is singing satirist Kacey Jones who emerged in 1988 with Ethel & The Shameless Hussies before producing the Kinky Friedman tribute disc Pearls In The Snow and making four solo albums.

She had an huge European hit on a duet with Delbert McClinton on You're The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly - a sixties chart topper for the late Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn.
"I was introduced to Kacey by Smoky Robinson, of all people, at LA Airport a long time ago when me and Kacey were getting to go on same plane," recalled Welch.
Welch had his songs recorded by artists diverse as Gary Allan, The Judds, Ricky Skaggs, Trisha Yearwood and the late Waylon Jennings, Roger Miller and Conway Twitty.


Brooks rewrote Pushin' Up Daisies as a tribute to his late mother, country singer Colleen Carroll, for his latest album Scarecrow.

"Garth was kind enough to call my publisher and ask him for songs," Welch said, "we sent him about 30 songs. Garth and producer Allen Reynolds looked at over 5,000 songs. It's unique for me to allow lyric changes but I thought his motive was really clean. The song had a new function at that point. I also thought he did a good job."

The title track of Welch's previous album Millionaire was written to his partner Claudia.
But it was equally relevant to Wyoming reared rodeo rider-singer Chris LeDoux - a 35 album veteran, now celebrating a successful liver transplant at the age of 54.

"I don't really know Chris but from what I do know I'll like the guy if I get a chance to meet him," says Welch, "I like his version of Millionaire. It's also ironic that Garth offered to give Chris a chunk of his liver when he became ill."


Welch once had nightmare about two mentors who died early last year.

But the writer has vastly different reasons for dreaming of serial hit writers and marriage recidivists Waylon Jennings and Harlan Howard.

The singing record company owner was about to produce the new Jennings album for his Dead Reckoning label when the Highwayman died from diabetes.

Jennings gave Welch his break when he recorded his songs, written under the tutelage of Howard.

"Harlan took me under his wing when I arrived in Nashville in 1978, he taught me how to write," Welch revealed.

Howard, five times wed tunesmith with 4,000 plus recorded songs, died at 74 on March 3, 2002.

It was less than a month after Jennings - whose fourth wife was Jessi Colter (the former singing spouse of rock guitarist Duane Eddy) - died aged 64 on February 13.

Jennings recorded 40 Howard songs including 1967 tribute album 'Waylon Sings Ol' Harlan.'
"It was a classic situation," Welch said "I hadn't been spending any time with Harlan for the past few years and had been feeling guilty about it. He was a great guy for all of us to hang out together with, real positive influence. He had these lunch time hangs where he drank White Russians and we wrote. Harlan called these songs pencil sharpeners and mailbox money."


When Welch arrived in Nashville he became a prolific writer with songs covered by many artists becoming mailbox money.

That mailbox money - hits for acts diverse as Jennings, Roger Miller, Gary Allan, Ricky Skaggs, The Judds, Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks - financed his record company Dead Reckoning.

One was 'Lady In Lubbock,' an embryonic song, had the same West Texas locale as 'Hello I'm Gone' from his self titled 1990 Warner debut disc.

But Welch earned more when Georgian born superstar Trisha Yearwood cut Hello I'm Gone on her seventh album, Everybody Knows.

"I have a history of trouble in Lubbock," Welch revealed of the hometown of Buddy Holly, Natalie Maines, Butch Hancock and Mac Davis.

His oft-recorded 'True Love Never Dies' was cut by the Del McCoury band who backed Steve Earle on his bluegrass album The Mountain.

"The coolest cut was by Del, a stone bluegrass version," says Welch who also liked Ruby Lovett's recent version, "it made the hair stand up on my arms."

Welch is renowned for his Kerouacesque road reflections first exposed on his self-titled debut disc - The Mother Road, Long Way Home and I Am No Drifter.

His two Warner Bros discs in 1990 and 1992 have been re-released by Dead Reckoning.
Welch also released Life Down Here On Earth (1995) and Beneath My Wheels (1999) and Dead Reckoning family disc 'A Night Of Reckoning' (1997).

Kevin and Dead Reckoning partner Kieran Kane cut their live album at the Continental Café, Prahran, on their debut tour in November 1999.

Welch's narratives have long explored the cutting edge of country - a vein mined deep in history from the Appalachian murder ballad era.


"These days I keep a watch out for the gun/ all because the jury was hung/ the jury foreman he just smiled/ the killer tap danced down the aisle/ these days I keep a watch out for the gun." 'Witness' - Kevin Welch.

'Witness' - based on frailties of the Witness Relocation Program - could have been a plot from a crime novel by the James - Ellroy, Burke or Crumley.

"It was based on stories I heard on people who had gone into the program and what happened to them afterwards," Welch said, "they got let loose and some times they screw up and let their real name slip. I'm getting more interested in writing story songs - I haven't written enough recently."

An exception is 'When The Sun Shines Down On Me' penned with Mark Germino - writer of mainstream radio parody 'Rex Bob Lowenstein.'

"Germino came over to my house about 10 years ago and said 'Kevin, I want to write a song with you and about you," Welch recalled, "he showed me song he had already written and he had some of the facts wrong. The song just sat for all these years. The time got right for me to sing it, he's one of the greats. I'm real proud to have a song with him"

Welch's tune, Crying For Nothing, from the Dead Reckoners' 'Night Of Reckoning' was on Smoke Rings In The Dark - third album by chart topping Californian country singer Gary Allan who has also toured here several times.


It's a far cry from those embryonic Nashville days when Welch bloomed under the tutelage of old Harlan.

The duo clicked like clockwork with a familiar chime solved by a studio detective.
"We wrote this song 'The Mill Closed Down' and Tommy Cash decided to record it so Harlan took me to the session," Welch revealed on a previous tour.

"He said 'son, we'll see how it's done.' Half way through the first take the producer Fred Foster turned around and said to Harlan 'hickory dickory dock.' We looked at each other and realised we had stolen the melody from 'Hickory, Dickory, Dock."

Welch wrote other songs - including 'Watch My Lips, Read My Eyes' - with Howard.
But this time it's The Flood who are flowing down under with Welch.


Welch and The Flood play Basement Discs in the CBD at 12.45 p m and Corner Hotel, Richmond on Friday October 31.

They play the Geelong Performing Arts Centre on Saturday November 1.

And on Sunday November 2 it's the Loxley Vineyard, via Kyneton during the afternoon and Jimi's @ Milano's, Brighton Beach at night and a Cup Eve show at the Clifton Hill Hotel, on Monday November 3.

top / back to diary