Today as I was writing with my buddy, Bob Farrell, I snapped this shot of him in my writing room…We were brainstorming an idea,….and just for a moment I was caught in a rush of emotion…mindful of his great impact on my life.

We have written together for decades, but it is not the writing that is the most enduring. Bob and his wife, Jayne are from the South Pole of the contiguous…Texas cured. We’ve lived life together, know each other’s children and grandchildren, their names and what they’re doing. We’ve suffered together. Bob and Jayne lost their home in the Nashville flooding some years back; we have both been nigh unto death and sat at each other’s bedsides. We’ve heard our music performed by people all over the world. We’ve had our disagreements and wrangled over ideas…but it was this willingness to be uncomfortable and walk together in the refining fire, that brought a lyric or piece of music to a place of beauty and great imagery. We’ve written some good songs and our share of less than good. Of course, at the time we were writing these alleged gems, they all seemed brilliant…that is until we listened to them a short time later and wondered what in the world we were possibly thinking just days earlier.

The preponderance of my writing efforts have come in three distinct periods, with three specific compatriots. The first was with Phill McHugh that began in my recording days in North Dakota and then again in my early years in Nashville. Phill was born into an Irish Catholic farm family near Aberdeen, South Dakota. He was commonly hip, politically aware and viewed life from a vantage point that was different than mine. We were on the same page spiritually, but how we arrived at our conclusions came in different ways. I first met him when he came to my studio in Bismarck to record an album. We bonded in that experience and when he recorded his second album…”Canvas For The Sun’, it was picked up by Lamb and Lion records which was distributed by Sparrow Records headed by Billy Ray Hearn, ultimately leading to my move to Los Angeles and subsequently, Nashville.

Just a short time after we made the move to Tennessee, Phill moved with his family as well. This was very important to us both at the time because we had history together and could trust each other’s instincts. This is so chemically important in a writing relationship.

Pam and I were close to him and his wife then, Dorsey. We watched our children grow, got together many times, laughed and made music…Good times they were. Phill has a poet’s heart and his thoughts come out like that. His imagery and theater is stunning. I’m not sure how, but we sort of drifted away from each other after a few years in Nashville…but we did. It makes me sad, because I love this family very much. Dorsey is an unbelievable painter, artist in her own right. You should check out Dorsey McHugh Fine Art.

The last person with whom I would spend a period of creative years was Paul Marino. I met Paul through a friend who I was involved with in the beginnings of Young Life in my hometown. Paul was in a group called; “River” and I produced a couple of albums with them. He was from St. Paul at the time and later, made the move to Nashville with his wife Karolyn. We loved each other from our recording days together, but when he moved here, we became fast friends….like family.

Paul knows all of my personal ins and outs and has helped immeasurably with getting me out of old songwriting habits. He’s funny as funny can be. A couple of days ago we went to a fund raising dinner for a work in the Ukraine that rescues children from poor living conditions in orphanages there. As we sat listening, Paul leaned over to me and said out of the clear blue…”You know….mediocrity has come a long long way”…and then focused back on the speaker, acting as if nothing happened. (He was not referring to the presentation). Paul is also the king of the misnomer….saying things like ..”Boy…I’d like to be a mouse on the wall when they’re talking”. We can pun back and forth for days. It’s these little things I love about him as well.

These men and their families are precious treasures in my life. When you write anything…the most powerful words and music come from those people and events that move you at a high emotional place….from what you live…from what you believe…and what God has given you to say. And for that…. I’m grateful…grateful…grateful, for the blessings of these three families in my life.


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