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American Routes Shortcuts: Chris Smither

Chris Smither
American Routes

Each week, American Routes Shortcuts offers a sneak peak into the upcoming American Routes episode. This week, New Orleans Bluesman Chris Smither plays a live show in his current home- Western Massachusetts.

Host Nick Spitzer sat with him on stage to talk songwriting. Here’s Chris Smither, on the inspiration for his song, “Love You Like A Man.”

CS: You know, “Love you Like a Man” was the product of a conversation that I had with a guy who owned a coffee house that I played at constantly on Charles St. Down in Boston. And his name was Arnold Cummins. The first year that I came up to Boston, and I had dropped out of school after four years, you know, it was the middle of the Vietnam War, and I had been playing for him for months and he says, Chris he says-- he actually was a physician in Watertown but he’d never practiced, he just ran this coffee house, two of ‘em.

But he used to sit out there and lean on the parking meter on Charles St. and watch people go by and one time, we saw a couple go by. And they were obviously in the depths of a very bitter conversation- an argument of some sort. He says, “you see that?” And I said, “yeah.” He says, “every time you see that,  it’s the guy’s fault.”

I thought that was a novel approach. So I asked him about it- if he could elucidate, and he did at length over weeks. You know, and it was the first inkling that I had of consciousness raising, of trying to analyze the way I’d been raised without even giving it a second thought, you know? And that’s where that song came from. Wanna hear it? I was trying to write a song full of traditional blues braggadocio with a degree of sensitivity at the same time.

(Plays “Love You Like a Man)