Hi, this song is titled “Bismarck,” and is from the CD “Waltz Across Montana,” which was produced by Brent Mason and mixed by Lonnie Wilson.
The Story Behind The Song
I was on my way back to Bismarck North Dakota to spend a couple weeks with my parents before flying down to Nashville to record a new CD. Brent Mason was going to produce the CD and we had decided to do the project very traditional, using only lead guitar, steel, drums and bass. I had 17 songs written, from which we would eventually choose 12. The songs were pretty good, but I felt I was missing a Waltz, which in my opinion should be mandatory on a country CD! I had a good melody in my head and thought I felt the mood of the song coming along nicely. I also knew I wanted to write about a songwriter living a life on the road, performing night after night, writing songs. I wanted to write about the loneliness, life in hotels, writers block, all of it!
A few years earlier while driving through Colorado I was listening to an interview with Willie Nelson, where he said he had written a few songs with the same melody lines. When the interviewer asked if that bothered him to repeat melodies, he simply said, “The words make the song, it’s the words that tell the story.” With that in mind, I thought to write a straight country waltz in the style of Willie Nelson.
So there I was on an air plane flying in to Bismark, North Dakota to visit my parents in the middle of one of the worst winters of the last 20 years. I had this idea for a waltz running around in my brain but I was struggling with the words, I had writer’s block. And if that wasn’t enough, I was on an air plane from Minneapolis to Bismarck! If you’ve never had the pleasure of flying on a plane with 14 total seats, two rows of seven, I wholeheartedly recommend it! In a plane that size you feel every bump, every slight change in the direction of the wind. If someone leans to far to one side you feel the plane move a little!
As the lyrics weren’t coming to me during the entire 55 minutes of the flight, I eventually put my pen away and decided maybe the waltz wouldn’t be written before the time came to record the new CD. As a writer, that’s a frustrating situation to be in. You hear the melody in your head, you have a concept for the song, but the words just refuse to come. It’s like you are blocked somehow from finding the right words, but you feel they are right there on the tip of your tongue, or in this case your pen (hence why it’s called writer’s block)! Then as we were preparing to land, from the back of the plane and in just the nick of time, I overheard one man say to his friend, ”I heard it’s colder than hell in Bismarck.” I thought to myself, “wow, not bad.” About a second later, his friend replied, “Sure hope the wife doesn’t forget to pick me, I’d hate to have to walk!” These two lines after a little work become the first two lines of the song!
As they were sitting directly in the seats behind me, I felt obligated to turn around and thank them for the words. They looked at me a little strange, but laughed it off jokingly and said “no problem.”
The only other footnote to this song is that there is a wonderful little Diner in Bismarck North Dakota called The Little Cottage Cafe. This place serves the best “Hot Beef” in the whole area. Hot beef is a dish where there’s piled high sliced roast beef on bread, served with mashed potatoes and gravy over the whole thing! As my father and I drove home from the air port that night, we passed by The Little Cottage Cafe. This place, I decided, would be the restaurant where the woman worked. Which woman you ask? The waitress, who just happened to be on her way home from work from The Little Cottage Cafe that night our songwriter arrived on the plane. She’s the one who pulled up along side the songwriter in her pick up truck as he was walking to his hotel, and said, “get in here, or you’ll freeze to death!” Why was he walking? The person who was supposed to pick him up from the plane didn’t show up! Anyway, that’s where the song takes off. This woman who works as a waitress at The Little Cottage Cafe helps the songwriter find the words again!
I think the story would make a nice movie! Any takers?? 😉