Always On My Mind: John Doe Goes Country Musician John Doe of the L.A. punk band 'X' joins Canadian band the Sadies to perform songs from their new album Country Club, covering classics from Merle Haggard to Tammy Wynette.

Always On My Mind: John Doe Goes Country

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

On this Labor Day, we're going to listen back to a performance by John Doe, recorded in our studio earlier this year. As the co-founder of the L.A.-based band X, John Doe is one of the leading voices and songwriters of punk rock in the '70s and '80s.

As our rock critic, Ken Tucker, has said, quote, when John Doe started the band X in the '70s, his voice always stood out for its tunefulness, a high, lonesome tenor that could sing country and pop, as well as the harsher punk rock he and his then-wife Exene were producing, unquote.

On his latest release, "Country Club," John Doe sings country-music classics by Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Roger Miller and others, along with a few originals. Backing him up on the CD is the Canadian-based band, The Sadies. Two of the Sadies, guitarist Travis Good and bass player Sean Dean, backed up John Doe in our studio.

Well, welcome to FRESH AIR. It's so great to have you here. I'd like to start by asking you to play a song, and I have a request: a song from the new CD, "(Now and Then) There's A Fool Such as I," and do you want to say a few words about the song, John, before we hear it?

Mr. JOHN DOE (Musician): I heard it as a kid, for sure, and then somewhere in my mind there was a very - I mean that was Hank Snow's version. Somewhere in my mind, Bob Dylan did a slower version of it, and I tried to find it, and all he did was the Elvis version, which is sort of rock 'n' rolly, not good, and someday I'll find the Bob Dylan version of "A Fool Such as I."

GROSS: Unless you invented it, and that version doesn't really exist.

Mr. DOE: I think maybe I did. Maybe I just blended the two or something. I don't know.

GROSS: Well let's hear your version.

(Soundbite of song, "(Now and Then) There's A Fool Such as I")

Mr. DOE: (Singing) Pardon me if I'm sentimental when we say goodbye. Don't be angry with me should I cry. When you're gone, yet I'll dream a little dream as years go by. Now and then, there's a fool such as I.

Now and then, there's a fool such as I am over you. You taught me how to love, and now you say that we are through. I'm a fool, but I'll love you, dear, until the day I die. Now and then, there's a fool such as I.

Now and then, there's a fool such as I am over you. You taught me how to love, and now you say that we are through. I'm a fool, but I'll love you dear until the day I die. Now and then, there's a fool such as I. Now and then, there's a fool such as I.

GROSS: That sounds great. Thank you for doing that, and that's John Doe singing and playing guitar, Travis Good on lead guitar, Sean Dean on Bass, and that's a song on the new album by John Doe and The Sadies called "Country Club."

John, how did you decide to do a country album?

Mr. DOE: Well, for the last 20 years maybe, people would say oh, you should do a country record, and it always seemed like a snooze to me.

GROSS: Because?

Mr. DOE: Well, because my voice is a pleasant voice, not really crazy. You can't identify it like Janis Joplin or Bob Dylan or something. It's not this signature Macy Gray, like wow, that's a crazy voice or even modern Neko Case or something.

So with that and a Nashville sort of smooth backing, it's like…

(Soundbite of snoring)

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: So when the Sadies and I played together at a festival in Canada, and it was like this is what it should be.

GROSS: Okay, here's my take on you singing country.

Mr. DOE: Yeah.

GROSS: A lot of country is a kind of weepy singing because some of the songs are so sad about, like, tragic love, being an alcoholic, like all horrible things that can happen to you, and I don't think you do weepy, but you have this kind of, like, desolate sound when you're singing some of these songs that really works.

Mr. DOE: Inside I'm weeping.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Now I love "A Fool Such as I," and I sometimes think when I hear it how different would the song be if it was a fool just like me. It just doesn't quite work the same.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: Well that's the beauty of country music is it has this weird, colloquial but sort of statesman prosaic. Like, I was thinking about -we do a song live, "There Stands the Glass."

GROSS: I love that song. Oh, okay, now you've got to do a few bars of it. I was going to ask you to do it, but I figured well, I don't necessarily know it.

Mr. DOE: Okay. All right, but anyway, this is like "There Stands the Glass." That's a really weird sentence. It makes total sense, but it's like aloft the glass is before me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: Drinketh me down the glass of beer.

GROSS: Okay, do a few bars.

Mr. DOE: Okay.

(Soundbite of song, "There Stands the Glass")

Mr. DOE: (Singing) There stands the glass that'll ease all my pain, that'll settle my brain. It's my first one today. There stands the glass that'll hide all my fears, that'll drown all my tears. Brother, I'm on my way.

I'm wondering where you are tonight. I'm wondering if you are all right. I'm wondering do you think of me in my misery. There stands the glass. Fill it up to the brim 'til all my troubles grow dim. It's my first one today.

Mr. DOE: The short version.

GROSS: It's amazing about how a song about such misery can make me so happy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: I loved hearing you. That's a great performance. I love what you did with the there. That was really so big, it was so great.

Mr. DOE: Well, Webb Pierce did a great version. I used to do it in a higher key. I had to accept that. And then Ted Hawkins did…

GROSS: Oh, I know that version, too, that's a great version.

(Soundbite of bellowing)

Mr. DOE: And there would be like a five-minute there.

GROSS: Yeah, he was this, like, homeless singer in California or someplace.

Mr. DOE: Yeah.

GROSS: Yeah, so okay, so when did you start listening to country music and liking it? I mean, did you ever just, like, write it off as something that you weren't about?

Mr. DOE: No, because I'm a white man, and white men listen to country music.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: Well over a long period of time, right? I heard country music early on as a kid. Folk music was, like, for kids back in the '60s and stuff. And then we all drew a line in, like, '74 of like everything that was before that, we put away. And then sometime in '81, we started getting George Jones records for 50 cents at thrift stores, right, and then had a long period of idolizing that and feeling as though that was more valid than what we did.

GROSS: Really?

Mr. DOE: Sure.

GROSS: Because why?

Mr. DOE: Because it has a history, because it's, you know, it's just bigger. It's bigger than rock music. It's bigger than punk rock for sure, and so it took me a long time to realize that I was just fooling myself, and I wasn't…

You know, I had no connection to Johnny Cash or George Jones. I was just this, you know, kid from Maryland and whatever, and I had learned how to play music and punk rock and stuff like that and then eventually got sick of it, sick of country music.

You can't listen to the same songs over and over and over. And then just recently felt like, well, this is different. This is more like a Bakersfield sound. It's harder, and these guys do know bluegrass really well, and so it was a good combination.

GROSS: My guests are John Doe and two members of the band, The Sadies, Travis Good and Sean Dean. Their new CD is called "Country Club." They'll perform more songs after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

GROSS: My guests are John Doe, Travis Good of the band The Sadies and bass player Sean Dean. And there's a new album by John Doe and the Sadies, which is called "Country Club," and it's an album of classic country songs and a few originals, as well, and of course John Doe was one of the founders of the classic punk band X.

So let's do another song. By let's, I mean you do another song.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: You can join in.

GROSS: No, thank you.

Mr. DOE: Okay.

GROSS: From the new CD, and I have another request, and this is "Stop the World (And Let Me Off)," which is the song that leads off the CD. Do you want to say a couple words about why you chose it?

Mr. DOE: Actually James Intveld, who's a singer in Los Angeles, has done this song for years, and I would see him do it once in a while. There's a festival called the Hootenanny. I saw him do it there, and it's just such a great song, so let's get the tempo here.

(Soundbite of song, "Stop the World (And Let Me Off)")

Mr. DOE: Stop the world and let me off. I'm tired of goin' 'round n' 'round. I played the game of love and lost. So stop the world and let me off.

My world is shattered don't you see? You no longer care for me. I miss the wonder of your kiss. How could you leave me here like this?

Stop the world and let me off. I'm tired of goin' 'round n' 'round. I played the game of love and lost. So stop the world and let me off.

Stop the world and let me off. I'm tired of goin' 'round n' 'round. I played the game of love and lost. Oh, stop the world and let me off.

GROSS: That's great. That's "Stop the World" from the new CD by John Doe and the Sadies, and they're here performing live in the studio. We have John Doe on vocals and guitar, Travis Good on lead guitar and Sean Dean on bass, and the new CD, "Country Club," is an album of country classics and originals. I'm really grateful that they're here performing live for us today.

John, have you met any of the great country songwriters, either ones whose work you do on the CD - I know some of them are dead but not all of them - or other great ones over the years?

Mr. DOE: Yeah, I've met several singers. I met Johnny Cash at the first Farm Aid, and I've met Merle Haggard a few times. He's such a nut.

GROSS: Really? In what sense?

Mr. DOE: He just goes off on these tangents, and he just, you know, holds forth, and he's just - but he's really good about it. You know, he's nice about it. There's a little bit of the, like, you know, jailhouse like I'm going to tell you a story, and you're going to listen.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Well, he spent enough time in jail to justify that.

Mr. DOE: Well a little bit, you know, and there's plenty, of course, that you wish you would have met. I wish I would have met Roger Miller.

GROSS: Oh yeah, I'm glad you brought him up because you do a Roger Miler song I really love on the CD, "Husbands and Wives." And I'll confess, it took me a long time to come around to Roger Miller.

I'd always meet songwriters who admired Roger Miller, and all I knew were hits from the '60s that I really hated like "King of the Road," "Dang Me" and "England Swing Like A Pendulum Do," and I thought, like, what exactly do you like, you know? But it turns out he's really a great songwriter. He has great ballads.

Mr. DOE: It was hard to find a song that we felt we could pull across because a lot of them are really sort of jokey, and it was sort of a -great melody on all of them and great wordplay, but I think it was kind of common knowledge they were all taking amphetamines to beat The Band, and so…

GROSS: Was that right?

Mr. DOE: Oh, I think so. I don't think I'm blowing anybody's cover. I mean, Waylon Jennings talks about it all the time in his book. Anyway, that's sort of, I think, where some of it came from, and that's where the jokey, like, I'm really not taking this seriously, you know.

The one thing about country music, to go back to another question…

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. DOE: …about why I wouldn't - people would say you have such a great voice, you should do this sort of record, and I thought well, if I do that, and it has this smooth, Nashville background, it's going to be exactly what people hate about country music, which is too soft and too weepy and too, you know, all these negative things about country, whereas with the Sadies, it's really rough, not - rough like rough and tumble, you know. It's got a serious edge, and even as much as we tried to smooth it out, you can't smooth that. You can't smooth these guys out.

GROSS: Yeah, I understand what you're saying. I want you to do "Husbands and Wives," the Roger Miller song that you do on the new CD, and I mean, yeah, he does have some great ballads, including "More and More I Miss You Less and Less." Why did you choose this one? You said you were looking for a ballad, didn't want to do one of the jokey songs, thank goodness.

Mr. DOE: I think it was - well, we thought about doing "Engine Engine Number 9," but that also has this sort of funny thing. I was hoping I could sing "Baltimore," and you know, bring back the hometown, but I think just people splitting up, you know, or the other people you admire who stay together, and it's just a beautiful song.

GROSS: It is. Why don't you do it for us.

(Soundbite of song, "Husbands and Wives")

Mr. DOE: (Singing) Two lonely hearts, broken, looking like houses where nobody lives. Two people each having so much pride inside neither side forgives.

The angry words spoken in haste, such a waste of two lives. It's my belief pride's the chief cause in the decline in the number of husbands and wives.

A woman and a man, a man and a woman. Some can, some can't, and some can.

Two lonely hearts, broken, looking like houses where nobody lives. Two people each having so much pride inside neither side forgives.

The angry words spoken in haste, such a waste of two lives. It's my belief pride's the chief cause in the decline in the number of husbands and wives.

A woman and a man, a man and a woman. Some can, some can't, and some can.

GROSS: That's John Doe performing in our studio with two members of the band The Sadies, guitarist Travis Good and bass player Sean Dean. We'll hear more of their performance in the second half of our show. Here's a track from their CD, "Country Club." It's a song made famous by Tammy Wynette. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. On this Labor Day edition, we're listening back to a performance by John Doe and two members of the band, The Sadies, guitarist Travis Good and bass player Sean Dean. It was recorded in our studio earlier this year. They're CD "Country Club" features country classics and some originals. John Doe co-founded the great punk bank X in the 70s.

John, you know most of the songs you do on the new CD are by other songwriters. Now, you've written so many great songs yourself, and I wonder if you think your style of songwriting is inherently different from the kind of classic country song that you're doing on the new CD?

Mr. DOE: I would say my songwriting is quite a bit different. It has a lot more to do with, like, poetry, free verse, free association and things like that. More and more, though, I think you write - I'm trying to write from a intuitive point of view.

Rather than taking a piece of music and some words and putting them together to make a song, start with a piece of music and just start singing things and just writing it down and letting it kind of come out rather than constructing it, which is another way of keeping things interesting, keeping the experiment and adventure alive, so…

GROSS: I think that, like, a lot of the country songwriters really had a sense of craft.

Mr. DOE: Oh yeah.

GROSS: And like, they knew what would make a hit, they knew how to put a catch phrase in and how to craft that into, like, a package that would be really pleasing. And I wonder if in doing country songs, you've thought a lot about the craft of songwriting and if that's affected your more kind of poetic approach to songwriting.

Mr. DOE: Hmm. That's one of those tough questions.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: I can't get - I can never see a song as something to be constructed in a conscious way. It's all more subconscious and intuitive, and then when you're editing it, then you can take a word out and put another word in and things like that. But you know they - I think country songs have those great song titles that it sort of writes themself. There's one somebody said is, what is it? You're a billion light beers away.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: Or something like that; writes itself.

GROSS: So I'm going to ask you to do one of your own songs.

Mr. DOE: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: And you do a song that you co-wrote with Exene on the new CD, "It Just Dawned On Me." Do you want to do that one?

Mr. DOE: Sure. Um, it's…

GROSS: But talk about it. Talk it about the songwriting process for you and also, like, the process of co-writing with her, and as our listeners who followed your career know that you used to be married. You've divorced like years ago and…

Mr. DOE: Twenty. Over 20 years. Yeah.

GROSS: But you're still really close. You still…

Mr. DOE: Yes.

GROSS: …tour together in at least two bands, and you still write songs together. So tell us a little about your approach to songwriting and your approach to co-writing.

Mr. DOE: Right. Well actually this is - sort of refutes everything that I just said about the way that we write songs, because Exene had an idea about someone who wakes up in the morning and is, like, well, wait a minute, you were here, and now it just dawned on me that you're gone -which is sort of like duh...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: One of those revelations that you have and - but it was sort of like poof, you just evaporated in thin air. And I was going through a few things, you know, emotionally, and you know, someone I was close to was seeing somebody else, and it was this sort of mixed up stuff, and then I just kind of charted it all out, made a little map and, you know, luckily there were some chords to go along with it.

GROSS: Well why don't you do the song for us.

Mr. DOE: So this was sort of constructed. Ready?

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. DOE: (singing) You were always there for the last seven years, sleeping in a bed, resting your pretty little head, but you started sleeping lighter and lighter every night. You were already up making coffee 'fore the dawn's early light.

While I was happy dreaming in our happy home, I woke up. I was alone. It just dawned on me, you're gone. You're gone.

An old flame caught your eye and whispered in your ear songs of whiskey dreams to spirit you away from here. Your mama and your daddy slept in a soft feather bed. I hope you wind up in the jailhouse with a cement floor for your head because I'll be happy dreaming in our happy home. I'll wake up. I'll be alone. It will dawn on me, you're gone. Thank God you're gone.

GROSS: That's great. Okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Joe Doe singing and playing guitar, Travis Good on lead guitar. And Travis, that's some really great playing, at the risk of saying the obvious, and Sean Dean on bass. Thank you all. And they're performing songs from their new CD. It's by Joe Doe and The Sadies, and the CD is called "Country Club," and it's a mix of classic country songs and some originals, and the song that they just played is an original by John Doe and Exene Cervenka who used to be - they were the founders of X, of the band X.

So John, before we, before you played that song, you were talking about how your approach to songwriting is usually different from, like, the classic country song approach of like craftsmanship, sitting down, trying to write a hit. Do you remember the very first song you ever wrote?

Mr. DOE: Yes I do. I don't remember the song itself, but it was called "Stable Boy" and I was being you know…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: I was having to rake the yard or something for, you know, my parents, and I felt that I was being oppressed.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: Like a little slave.

GROSS: So was this, like, a blues song or something?

Mr. DOE: I don't know what the hell it was.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: It's just something horrible, and I immediately forgot it after it was done.

Unidentified Man: Unstable boy.

Mr. DOE: Yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: Unstable boy.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. DOE: That would be a better song.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: You know what? I can, I can play something that Exene and I wrote that is more free-form.

GROSS: Oh great. Okay.

Mr. DOE: It was on a previous one of my records, and it's called "Darling Underdog," which she wrote.

(Soundbite of song, "Darling Underdog")

Mr. DOE (singing) Green into gold, black into white. Me into you like ultraviolet light. Feed me the song. Forgive me, I was wrong. Darling underdog disappearing in the fog.

Traffic lights forever changing, red to greenish blue. Paper as your secrets are underground with you, underground with you.

Mr. DOE: And then on and on, blah, blah, blah, blah.

GROSS: That's Joe Doe. He'll be back with two members of the band The Sadies after a break. They're new CD is called "Country Club." This is FRESH AIR.

GROSS: My guest is Joe Doe. In the '70s he co-founded the famous punk bank X. His latest project is a new CD of country-music classics called "Country Club." He's backed by the band the Sadies. Two members of the band are with us, guitarist Travis Good and bass player Sean Dean.

One of the songs on the new CD "Country Club" by John Doe and The Sadies is written by Travis and his brother Dallas, and it's a song that Travis, your mother actually duets with Joe Doe on. And so - it's a really nice song, and what I want to do is play it from the CD so that we can hear your mother singing with John. She's got a beautiful voice. Her name is Margaret Good.

Mr. TRAVIS GOOD (Guitarist for Band, the Sadies): Yah.

GROSS: And the song is called, "Before I Wake." So start off, Travis, by telling us a little bit about writing the song you co-wrote with your brother. Who did which part?

Mr. GOOD: Yeah, we all - well, we all - the entire band wrote it, you know, together. My brother did the lyrics. We all get together with the music on that one. And, you know, unlike a lot of the classic country songs that are very - have a direct message, this one is really vague. It's quite - it's up to the listener really as much as possible. We often try to do that when we write songs. And, yeah, I guess it's not typical country, but it has that feel.

GROSS: And your mother has a beautiful voice. I looked her up in Wikipedia and didn't find anything. So tell us something about her.

Mr. GOOD: She was actually, my whole family is - all play in bands. Everyone in the family are in bands and she doesn't do it so much anymore, but she was really the first one in the family to - she was a singer in a country show in Canada called "The Ronnie Prophet Show," which - and so she got to backup people like Merle Haggard and Dolly Parton and everybody.

And so she's quite a singer, you know, and she's been doing it for a long time. And I've been trying to get her to just do her own record these days but she's a little shy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Oh, I hope she does. She's got a great voice. So let's hear this. And this is from the CD by John Doe and the Sadies. So this is John Doe dueting with Margaret Good, who's the mother of two of the Sadies, Travis and Dallas Good.

(Soundbite of song, "Before I Wake")

Mr. DOE: (Singing) Won't you pour out some good night, sugar, can't sit still or go home.

Ms. MARGARET GOOD (Singer, Guitarist for, the Sadies): There won't be light for hours so the (unintelligible) can go on and on and on.

Mr. DOE: (Singing) Go follow someone else 'cause I'm already lost. I can't help you and there's no help for me.

Ms. GOOD: (Singing) And there's no help for me. I know that it's all over. I can almost smell the flower. 'Cause something's

Mr. DOE: (Singing) 'Cause something's nothing can heal.

GROSS: That's a track from the new CD by Joe and The Sadies. It's called, "Before I Wake" and that's John Doe dueting with Margaret Good, who's the mother of Travis and Dallas Good, who are two of the musicians on the CD, founders of The Sadies.

And, John, I always love the harmonies that you sing. You sang with, you know, not only Exene, but a bunch of singers over the years. There's always something unusual about your harmonies. There's always some - I mean, you know, like I said there's certain kinds of harmonies that like, you know, those harmony styles. You've heard that. But I always recognize like your harmonies. There's something, I don't know what it is. I couldn't describe what's happening harmonically, but I know it's different than the harmonies most people sing. So what can you say about that?

Mr. DOE: I would say Exene taught me a lot because Exene didn't have a sort of formal training by playing in bands and listening and mimicking traditional harmony.

And then I learned some and, but I would give The Band, you know, of Bob Dylan and The Band a lot of credit for how I approach harmony. It was sort of mountain music, really ragged but incredibly right. And they would do things where they would sing a half a line and then stop and let the other person finish the line, and they would weave in and out and things like that.

And we actually had the good fortune of playing with Garth Hudson in New York, because he is pals with The Sadies. And it was a real dream come true. I saw them three times when I was a, you know, 20-year-old teenager and stuff and they were true heroes of mine. But, you know, I think you learn how to sing with who you grow up singing with. And I kind of grew up signing with Exene. So I sound better singing with other people.

GROSS: Now, you also like bend the notes a lot but it doesn't sound like you're copying blues musicians. It's a different kind of bending of the note.

Mr. DOE: Just swooping in.

GROSS: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: Don't want to commit right away and just actually hit the note…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: That way you could cover up if you…

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: No, but you have really good pitch. So it's not that.

Mr. DOE: Sometimes, most of the time. But, yeah, I don't know, just kind of what you come up with. You know, very little of what I've done or what X did or what The Sadies and I do is premeditated. Just kind of, you know, nothing is calculated, it just sort of happens.

GROSS: My guests are John Doe and two members of the band, The Sadies, Travis Good and Sean Dean. Their new CD is called "Country Club." They'll perform more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

My guest is John Doe. In the '70s he co-founded the now famous punk bank X. His latest project is a new CD of country music classics called "Country Club." He is backed by the band The Sadies. Two members of the band are with us, guitarist Travis Good and bass player Sean Dean.

John, I think one of your children now is the age more or less that you were when you went to L.A.?

Mr. DOE: Few years younger, yeah.

GROSS: Just a couple, like two or three years younger?

Mr. DOE: Yeah.

GROSS: Yeah. So do you see - like looking at the world through your daughter's eyes…

Mr. DOE: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: …do you see yourself as the young man differently now? Do you see how old you were then as being younger than you thought now as a father?

Mr. DOE: Hmm. Well, I think anytime time passes, you see the previous time as really naïve. And I mean even 10 years ago or five years ago, or people who have lost their jobs now, a year ago. I did think I had lot more answers than I really did, but it's that kind of belief that will allow you to just go forth and, you know, conquer or, you know, not get hopefully, you know, thrown in a ditch because you got into a car with somebody that you shouldn't have or, you know, all those kinds of things. I do believe in providence.

GROSS: Do you?

Mr. DOE: Kind of looking after you, yeah.

GROSS: In a religious way or just in a fate way?

Mr. DOE: Fate, yeah, and karma sort of. I believe that if you have a good outlook and you're going forward and you believe that things are going to be all right and you're, you know, may be that's Zen, then it's going to be okay. And if you think things are going to go bad, then they will.

GROSS: I'm going to end by asking you, John, to do a song that I know is not featured on your new CD but I know you are doing it on the tour that you're doing now and it kind of fits with the tone of the new CD. It's an original called "A Little More Time," from your solo album, "A Year In The Wilderness."

I listen to this song and I always figure there's a story behind it, and I can't quite figure out like what the story is. So is there a story behind the song or…

Mr. DOE: There's a story behind every song. But yeah, there is.

GROSS: Would you tell it?

Mr. DOE: Yeah. Two - one person is my daughter in the song, the other person is someone I'm very much love with, and I wasn't able to spend time with - enough time with either one.

And once your kids start growing up and time passes, even with the relationship, whether it's your kid or not, you realize that as you do each thing like what we're doing right now, this is the only time we're going to do that, right? You know, I was on your show 15 years ago, but I'm never going to be here again, and that's sort of a wonderful and a little bit scary - not really - but it's, you know, got to make sure that you're here to be a part of that. So…

GROSS: Fits in with the fate and Zen kind of thing you're…

Mr. DOE: Yeah, exactly.

GROSS: …talking about.

Mr. DOE: Yeah. You have to enjoy it while it's going on because otherwise, if you're thinking about the future or the past, then you're not here. So…

(Soundbite of guitar)

Mr. DOE: So anyway…

GROSS: Would you do the song for us?

Mr. DOE: Yeah, absolutely.

(Soundbite of song, "A Little More Time")

Mr. DOE: (Singing) There was a time, when the sunshine played in your soft blonde hair, reflected in your golden eyes. You lean back your head and you laugh about tomorrow. And then it came like a new day, the sun in the sky high beam, water sparkled down the stream. We knew this would all go away, but not today. And when it did, you are better, better than the day you were born. Not quite so perfectly formed, the only wish I had that day that it would stay. Just a little more time with you, with me, with you. Just a little more time with you, with me, with you. Just a little more time with you and me.

Down by the stream in the mountain, I promised you faithfully that I would never leave. If and when I went away, I'd still protect you. And now I'm gone, and the loose ends are strings hanging from my hands, tied to an empty land, stuck on a steering wheel in Nebraska, but I'm around so baby call me just before you go to bed, before you lay down your head. Or if you need an old fashioned cry, I'm the guy. Just a little more time with you, with me, with you. Just a little more time, with you, with me, with you. Just a little more time with you and me. There was a time.

GROSS: That's a really beautiful song.

Mr. DOE: Thank you.

GROSS: Were you on the road when you wrote it?

Mr. DOE: Part of it, yeah.

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. DOE: But, you know, the well is deep. You can always go back there and see what it's like.

GROSS: Right, right. John, one more question. Like when you started performing with X and you were in your 20s and part of like this new punk scene in L.A., were there parts of your past that you weren't comfortable with in terms of like your public persona that you're just like fine with now? Do you know what I mean? Like when people are inventing themselves…

Mr. DOE: Yeah.

GROSS: …that there's usually like the stuff you want to put out there and the stuff you don't want anyone to know.

Mr. DOE: You know what, that happened just a year and a half ago, where I was doing a - I did an interview with a friend, journalist. And we just talked about all sorts of stuff and I expected him to sort of filter out some of the things we were talking about which were, you know, about when I grew up in Baltimore and stuff like that. And he kind of did this really long piece and it was fully like - it was like, ah. And it was like, they used my given last name…

GROSS: Birth name, uh-huh.

Mr. DOE: Yeah, Duchac, which is hard to pronounce, and it's Czech and stuff like that. I don't care about it now, but it was like meet John Duchac. It was like, I was so outed. And then at sound check there were like guys that I hadn't seen in 20, 30 years, and it was like, I don't know if I necessarily want to see you from seventh grade.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOE: You know, sort of like the Facebook that was a daily giveaway, you know, weekly giveaway paper. I think everybody in the punk rock world drew a line and said this is now and that was then. And then you can, then - pretty, for us - pretty quickly we started going back to pull from blue songs and pull from country songs and pull from old rock and roll songs. But I think everybody is a little weird about who they were when they were in sixth and seventh grade.

GROSS: Well, it has just been great to have you all here. I'm so grateful to you for performing for us. I really, really enjoyed it. Thank you so much.

Mr. DOE: It's an honor, it's an honor, you know.

GROSS: John Doe and The Sadies' CD is called "Country Club." Their interview and performance on FRESH AIR was recorded in May. Two of The Sadies backed up John Doe today, guitarist Travis Good and bass player Sean Dean.

(Soundbite of credits)

GROSS: You can download podcasts of our show on our Web site, We'll close with another track from John Doe's CD, "Country Club." I'm Terry Gross.

(Soundbite of music, "I Still Miss Someone")

Mr. DOE: (Singing) At my door the leaves are falling. The cold wild wind will come. Sweethearts walk by together and I still miss someone. I go out on a party, and look for a little fun. But I find a darkened corner…

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