Douglas Wayne tells it like it is. Even about himself. Hell, especially about himself.
“Y’all have heard the saying ‘three chords and the truth,’ ” the East Nashville singer-songwriter says. “Well, this is it: I ain’t young. I ain’t pretty. I ain’t the next big thing. This is a simple statement of fact. Some people get the wrong idea about those of us still plugging away at the craft of songwriting. We don’t expect to become rich and famous. Nah. We do it because it’s who we are. It’s what we do.” And it’s what he serves up on his upcoming debut album Coyote, which arrives April 22 and is one of the sharpest, smartest roots-rock records to come down the line in a while. Wayne recently premiered the debut single HEY YA’LL — a jangling southern anthem with a timely message and a vibe that hits the sweet spot between the roadhouse and early R.E.M., — right HERE. Today, the musical journeyman, onetime struggling actor, animal-rights activist and performant photogrammetrist (whatever the hell that is) took a stroll through my dumb questions. As expected, he told it like it is. Here’s how it went:
What is your musical origin story?
I’ve had original melodies floating around in my head as long as I can remember. Kind of this thing that was present but I never made much of it. I didn’t really follow the muse until much later in life. The moment I decided to actually work at the songwriting was after a particularly devastating breakup. Some guys join the Marines. I poured myself into songwriting. I’ve been at it nonstop since.
What truly sets you apart from other artists?
There’s a track on Coyote called Ain’t Young Ain’t Pretty and that’s just the truth. As an artist, I do my thing with no pretensions.
How will my life improve by listening to your music?
It would be my greatest success if Coyote improves yours, or anyone else’s, life. In writing, I try to capture universal truths and think that comes through in the Coyote song cycle … So, when you listen, you’ll know and maybe be reassured that you share this experience of love, loss, success, failure that is life with some dude called DW in East Nashville.
Tell us about the first song you wrote and / or the first gig you played.
Well, I wrote my first song at about age 8. The next song I wrote was in my early 20s. I was playing with some guys — typical college band — and wrote a couple songs. The one I remember was called American Way. It was a take on crass commercialism. The guys rejected it!
What is the worst / most memorable performance you have given?
When I was just getting started writing I played a featured writer’s night for four people at Tiffany Tavern (Old Town Alexandria, VA) who got up and left after just 2-3 songs of my set. It was a cold, wintry night and no-one else came in. I kept playing — for about an hour. Finally, I kinda looked over at the bar and the manager/barkeep decided to call it a night. He closed up and we sat at the bar having a beer.
What is the best / most memorable performance you’ve seen?
Emmylou Harris and John Prine at a Christmas Eve performance at a church in downtown Nashville. Sublime.
What living or dead artists would you like to collaborate with?
John Lennon, of course. And I’d love to get out of my comfort zone and write with someone edgy like St. Vincent.
What artist or style of music do you love that would surprise people?
Pop. Going back to the Mills Brothers and up to the present. I like the songcraft, arrangement, and big production. Lorde’s Green Light is a great track. Like everyone else I’m listening to Adele now.
What words do you hope people use when they describe you?
Who can you do an impression of?
Mick! Jagger, that is. Not the onstage antics (though who doesn’t do Mick after a beer or three when Start Me Up comes on??) … I do his speaking voice or, rather, I mimic his affected manner of speaking. I probably don’t actually sound much like him. Now that I think about it, I might be doing Nigel Tufnel.
What do you collect?
Feathers. Rocks. I pick them up on walks.
If money was no object, where would you live?
Santa Margherita, Italy. In the Italian Riviera. I was there once for a couple days on a side trip from Rome and that just wasn’t long enough. Think palm trees, verdant hillsides, and warm Mediterranean water. Perfection.
What’s your idea of perfect happiness / total misery?
Casting flies into trout waters. It is my zen place — until I cast a fly into a tree.
What’s your greatest regret?
A kiss. This is a really long story.
Who should play you in the movie of your life?
Tom Cruise (LOL). I’m quite convinced a waitress in a Sunset Blvd bistro confused me for Tom one night years ago. I played along.
What’s your motto?
Finish What You Start. Got that from my grandfather.
What’s always in your refrigerator?
Beer. I have several from East Nashville Beer Works in there right now. I like the German styles; dark & malty. (If you’re ever in Bavaria drop by the Benedictine monastery at Andechs.)
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’d want to back off the perfectionism — it gets debilitating
What was your favourite class in school and why?
Geography. I was always interested in places and maps. There’s a bit of wanderlust in that.
What was the worst job you ever had?
Moving (as in furniture).
What’s the best advice you were ever given?
Easy one: Think. Something my father told me All. The. Time.