The best breaks and the sweetest vocals in the world would be without value if they
werenít put in the context of a really good song. And Oregon, a state that attracts and
nurtures creativity in many arts, is blessed with great songwriters.
Tim Crosby has been playing mandolin and singing for Portland audiences for more than
30 years. Now performing with the band Kathy Boyd & Phoenix Rising, Tim's music is
reaching a much broader audience.
Youíll enjoy reading his answers to our questions. His prose is as engaging as his
How long have you been writing music?
When I was thirteen, my best friend got a banjo, and I got a guitar for Christmas. We
knew that someday we could be the next Flatt & Scruggs. That was when I started
writing songs and poetry, just chock-full of nerdy teen-aged-boy pretensions of literary
whoop-de-do. Forty-some years later, I still look through my old notebooks from time to
time, so that the embarrassment will remind me of where I really stand.
Why do you write?
There have been a few times that I said to myself, ďWell then, I need a new song, so Iíll
just sit down and write one.Ē Fortunately for all of us, none of those have seen the light
of day. The real reason I write is to keep my head from exploding, thereís a bunch of
stuff in there that has to get out.
Whatís your writing process?
Iíve often said that I donít write songs: they write themselves on me - usually in the
middle of the night.
Iím a third-generation insomniac, so I keep a notebook and a little flashlight beside the
bed. Itís much more convenient if I donít have to pad around on the cold floor in my bare
feet searching for a piece of paper when a song gets a hold of me.
Sometimes a song will emerge all firm and fully formed, easy as pie. More often, itís like
being wrestled to the ground by some burly angel. Sometimes itís in a different language
altogether. Ah, the subconscious mind is a strange country, no? There is, of course, the
heavy lifting: editing and reworking and finding the right melody and chord progression
and so forth. Besides a cheap spiral notebook and my guitar, my most important tool is a digital multi-track recorder that I use to really get a sense of how the song works.
Please say a few words about songs of yours that have been nominated for
Along with my pal Dennis Nelson, I was nominated by the Roots Music Association for
2008 Bluegrass Songwriter of the Year. Iím not entirely sure which song it was for. My
guess is it was for either ďWestern GirlĒ, a true story about how my grandmother met
my grandfather, or for ďRisky Business,Ē the only bluegrass song I know of that mentions
giant Meteorites (along with other life-threatening hazards we all face every day).
Bluegrass disc jockeys were the nominators, and those two songs have been getting
quite a bit of airplay.
What are your favorite songs youíve written and why?
Perhaps my favorite is a western swing song called ďAnother Lonesome Cowboy Song.Ē
I wrote it in the back yard while visiting my parentsí house out in the desert in Western
Although I am a naturalized Oregonian, I still feel twangs of nostalgia for the bitter alkali
wind and the sandburs in my socks of childhood days growing up in a corner of the
American Southwest. The song describes the beauty of and longing for a place now far
away. Itís a true story, as are all my songs (although some have more truthiness than
Who are your favorite songwriters?
Like many of us, my list of favorite songwriters is long, but it includes (in no particular
order) Gillian Welch, Bob Nolan, James Taylor, Greg Brown and Kristen Grainger.
~ Article by Claire Levine, OBA Staff writer