Originally Posted Online: March 17, 2013, 2:50 am
Last Updated: March 18, 2013, 12:02 am

Kris Kristofferson on music's heart and soul

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By Ellis Kell

Photo:
Kris Kristofferson

"FEELING MORTAL" -- Kris Kristofferson (KK Records)

God Almighty here I am
Am I where I ought to be
I've begun to soon descend
Like the sun into the sea
And I thank my lucky stars
From here to eternity
For the artist that you are
And the man you made of me.

(from "Feeling Mortal," by Kris Kristofferson)

I was 16 when I first heard Kris Kristofferson, via his appearance on the Johnny Cash television show, and shortly after that I bought my first Kristofferson album -- "The Silver Tongued Devil And I." Forty-plus years down the road, I can still remember how those early songs cut straight to the heart of it, and were more honest and real to me than anything I had previously heard.

A couple dozen recordings and all those movie roles later, Kristofferson's newest CD "Feeling Mortal" is no exception. Straight to the heart, with simple melodies and the truth is the combination that has made the Kristofferson catalog an American musical treasure, and the legendary songwriter the standard by which others are measured.

The new CD is the first offering on Kristofferson's newly created independent KK Records label, and it takes a bold look at where he stands today as an artist and human being. I recently had the privilege of asking the Country Music Hall of Fame member a few questions about his newest release.

TRUE BLUE: "Feeling Mortal," in spite of the title, takes a look back with pride, while taking stock of the present with gratitude, and takes a peek around the bend with confidence. Going back to 1965, can you describe what your thoughts were when you decided to turn south on the highway to Nashville, rather than heading on east to West Point to teach literature?
KRISTOFFERSON: After many years of education and five years in the Army, I was exhilarated by the freedom of being a creative artist.
TRUE BLUE: Your songs "Pilgrim, Chapter 33" and "Ramblin' Jack" are like virtual bookends that validate each other. In that respect, what would you say are the basic principles that have guided you on your path as a songwriter?
KRISTOFFERSON: Tell the truth as vividly, honestly and creatively as you can
TRUE BLUE: You chose to include two songs from very early in your career on the new CD -- "Stairway To The Bottom" and "My Heart Was The Last One To Know." While both of these songs sound completely at home on "Feeling Mortal," is there any particular reason you chose these two?
KRISTOFFERSON: They have always seemed to me to embody the heart and soul of the music I had committed my life to making, and I felt like they belonged in this scrapbook of this portion of the journey.
TRUE BLUE: Remembering your own struggle in breaking in to the Nashville songwriters market, and how the industry has changed in years passed, what advice would you give to songwriters looking to make their mark on the music scene today?
KRISTOFFERSON: I have no idea what it takes to make your mark on the music scene today. If you're in it for the love, the money doesn't matter.
TRUE BLUE: The new song "Bread For The Body" seems to define what really does and doesn't matter for the songwriter and artist, but what were you saying in the phrase "life is a song for the dying to sing."?
KRISTOFFERSON: It should be lived with all the heart and soul you can muster.
TRUE BLUE: Did "Castaway" echo back to your days piloting a chopper with the National Guard, when you were still trying to get your bearings as a songwriter and artist?
KRISTOFFERSON: It was while piloting a helicopter for Petroleum Helicopters, Inc. (PHI) on offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.
TRUE BLUE: You've performed over the past several years as a solo, as well as doing some double bills with Merle Haggard. Do you plan to tour in support of "Feeling Mortal" with a group?
KRISTOFFERSON: No, I perform by myself.
TRUE BLUE: Is there anything you'd like to mention about the folks who backed you on the new CD?
KRISTOFFERSON: Don Was is truly in sync with the heart and the soul of the music and the musicians he's working with. I've had the good fortune to have Don in my corner for decades.

Kris Kristofferson answers were as direct as the picture that comes to mind with the lyric "in the park I saw a Daddy, with a laughin' little girl that he was swingin'." from "Sunday Morning Coming Down." The songwriter's voice is seasoned by the years, but the heart, soul, passion and power of the songs remains a constant.