Chris Compton’s latest offering—“Sunshine In The Mine”—off his forthcoming LP Furtherville is a bluesy stomp that rocks with harmonica, fiddle, and a tight rhythm section. Throughout “Sunshine in the Mine” Compton braids a fantastic shifting cadence that mimics Southern speech patterns with a highlighted spike of musicality. It’s a smart song because it doesn’t sacrifice musical ingenuity for mass appeal. Instead what comes off is American as eating popcorn in the nosebleeds of a baseball game. Hang out for the Prog outro with pick ax flashes of chromatic shimmer as the song is lowered deeper down the mineshaft.
You can listen to "Sunshine In The Mine" here.
SC: I really love how you build this song with your meter. Each line of the verse building onto your internal rhythm, “I came / to carry on the family name. / Picked up a shovel and I stepped into the front line”—later in the verse you switch the meter again. Can you tell me about how you chose this building rhythm?
CC: The singer in the song is a young coal miner trying to make something of himself after the death of his father. "I came to carry on the family name" tells you it's up to him to maintain the family line. He is driven to work all day in the mines, despite the cold and wet conditions, so he can afford to buy his lover a wedding ring and start a family of his own. The cadence of the vocal line echoes his determined outlook on the future. There is a swagger to his voice when he sings "I'm telling you why." He's telling you like it is--
what kind of man he's going to make of himself.
SC: What was your writing process like for “Sunshine in the Mine”?
CC: I spent the weekend in a cabin up in Cashiers, North Carolina with some friends of mine in a country band. The lead singer was also a songwriter from Columbia and being in the Appalachian Mountains, we got the idea of writing a song about a coal miner. I've never really co-written with anybody but the closest I've come was with this song. We tossed around a few different ideas but the one that stuck for me was the idea of never seeing the sun because you're always underground working dawn to dusk in the mine. We each ended up writing our "coal miner" songs separately but I still liked the story I saw taking shape so I let the lyric get a little richer. I pushed it toward a narrative that reflected my own experience after loosing my father just a few years earlier.
SC: What is your writing process like? Do you write every day? Do you hold off for inspiration?
CC: Songwriting is really the only thing I remotely know how to do. I can't change my oil or install a ceiling fan but I can write a song. I'm pretty lucky in that I get a lot of time for reflection while I'm at work. I spend my days driving through remote parts of the countryside and this provides a lot of the inspiration for my songs. I carry a little toy guitar for banging out melodies and a notebook for lyric ideas. I try to work on something every week but I find that real creativity comes in waves and is even seasonal. Spring and fall seem to be the most productive times for me.
SC: How does your community of songwriters influence you?
CC: The south has deep roots in traditional music and songs with stories. While my tastes go beyond these genres, I find myself more frequently in the folk, country and bluegrass circles around town. I joined a few songwriter groups and met local artist who gave me some insight into playing in those styles. But I guess ultimately I am a loner or at least a control freak and tend to work better by myself.
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