John Hiatt learned the most important lesson in writing music at the age of 11: “never alter anything.” He tells the Guardian that after crafting his first song, “Beth Ann” about the blossoming girl in his sixth grade Catholic school class, a friend convinced the future music legend to swap out the line about her “two brown eyes” for “lovely breasts” when preforming at the school dance. Following his performance, Hiatt was knocked out by Beth Ann’s football star-boyfriend and immediately regretted not sticking to his original version.
Fifty years later, Hiatt continues to demonstrate a knack for storytelling and raw honesty on his 22nd studio album, Terms of My Surrender, which released this week. The autobiographical album, produced by his longtime guitarist Doug Lancio, evokes laughter (or at least a smile) with lyrics such as, “Old people are pushy/They’ll drive how they want to drive/And go as slow as they want to/They don’t care who stays alive” in the song “Old People.” Along with his heartfelt humor, Hiatt’s acoustic guitar, harmonica and trademark low register deliver bittersweet blues in songs like “Face of God” and “Long Time Coming.” Hiatt, who has experienced a fair share of tragedy in his life, describes the blues as liberating.
“That’s why people sing the blues and play the blues,” the singer tells NorthJersey.com. “It’s about getting a load off your mind and your heart…. That’s why people like to listen to sad songs. Ultimately, it can make you feel better.”
Hiatt’s music has been covered by an eclectic group of musicians who include Bob Dylan, Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, Jimmy Buffett and Iggy Pop to name a few. He will be promoting his new album on tour this year. Check out cities and dates here.