A two-time Grammy-winner, John Prine is among the English language’s premier phrase-turners. Almost 50 years into a remarkable career that has drawn effusive praise from Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, Bonnie Raitt, Roger Waters, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen and others who would know, Prine is a smiling, shuffling force for good.He is a 2019 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Songwriter’s Hall of Fame nominee, a Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member and a PEN New England Lyrics Award recipient whose classic debut album, simply titledJohn Prine, is recognized as part of the Recording Academy’s Grammy Hall of Fame and whose songs have been recorded by Johnny Cash, Carly Simon, Bette Midler, Bonnie Raitt, Norah Jones, George Strait, Miranda Lambert, Zac Brown Band and many others.His critically acclaimed new album,The Tree of Forgiveness, was produced by Grammy Award winning produce Dave Cobb and recently debuted at #5 on the Billboard 200—a career high chart position and sales week for the legendary singer, songwriter and performer.
Of course, the opposite is true today. Those three songs – as well as “In Spite of Ourselves,” “Lake Marie,” “Fish and Whistle,” and so many others – are Prine signatures. His songs have been recorded by iconic singers like Johnny Cash (“Sam Stone”), Bette Midler (“Hello in There”) and Bonnie Raitt (“Angel from Montgomery”). He’s an uncredited co-writer on the now-classic “You Never Even Call Me by My Name” and his songs have been cut by country stars like Zac Brown Band (“All the Best”), Miranda Lambert (“That’s the Way the World Goes Round”) and George Strait (“I Just Want to Dance with You”). A gem from The Tree of Forgiveness, “Boundless Love” is also ripe for the picking.
Prine won his first Grammy for the 1991 album, The Missing Years, and he joined the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003. The Grammy Hall of Fame inducted his 1971 self-titled debut album in 2014. Two years later he accepted the PEN New England’s Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence Award. At the age of 70, he was named Artist of the Year by the Americana Music Association in 2017. Naturally, The Tree of Forgiveness is rooted in that same observant songwriting that he’s crafted throughout his career.
“I kept saying when I was doing this album, it’s going to be my last one,” Prine admits with a grin. “But if things go really good with it, I can’t see why I wouldn’t do something else.”
She started singing demos, and earned a reputation for her solid work ethic, engaging personality and phenomenal voice. Songwriter Kent Blazy frequently used Yearwood on his demos and it was in his attic studio that she first met Garth Brooks. Brooks introduced her to his producer, Allen Reynolds, who introduced her to producer Garth Fundis. Soon after, Yearwood did a showcase and landed a deal with MCA Records.
Such gems have always bee a staple of Yearwood's artistry. "I always thought my biggest hits have been happy accidents. I didn't know 'She's In Love With The Girl' was going to be that big. I didn't know 'How Do I Live' was going to be that big and those allow me to do some of the other songs that are maybe a little more left-of-center," she says. "I always called it the Emmylou factor. I was always checking my integrity level and saying, 'Okay would Emmy sing this? Could I pass her on the street if I sang this song?'
"I think I was actually a lot more serious in the beginning and finally Garth Fundis said, 'You have to lighten up a little bit. Everything doesn't have to be so deep. You can have some fun and nobody's going to think you've lost your artistic integrity.' I think we've had more fun on the later albums because I have lightened up a little bit. I can sing the gut-wrenching stuff, but I can have fun too. I think I'm able to sing some happier songs with sincerity in a way that I never did, not that I wasn't happy before, just not this level of happy. I can actually put a little more into those kind of songs."
Yes, Trisha Yearwood is happy these days. There's a light in her smile and buoyancy in her tone that's undeniable and absolutely infectious. "It still amazes me that I make a living doing what I love to do," she says. "I don't ever feel like it is work. I feel really grateful and blessed to get to do what I love. I love, love, love to sing."