Elvis Costello transforms an unearthed Johnny Cash poem into a sweeping, strings-laden ballad with “I’ll Still Love You.” The song features on the upcoming compilation Forever Words, which recruited an all-star roster of artists to put Cash’s lyrics, poems and letters to music.
In an interview tied to “I’ll Still Love You,” Costello said he immediately gravitated to the words Cash wrote in the piece. “The folio of lyrics was before me on the kitchen table, and there was one lyric that was thought to be one that might suit me. And then I was glancing through the folio and that particular lyric was there on the page, and the next thing I could hear it in a very unusual way,” Costello said.
Costello added that he could distinguish the difference between the works Cash wrote that were destined for songs and pieces – like “I’ll Still Love You” – intended to remain only on the page. “I knew right away it wasn’t to be played,” Costello said. “You could hear his musical voice on many of the lyrics on the page, but not this one; not to me anyway. I heard something completely different.”
“In this case, I just went downstairs to the upright piano and pretty much wrote what you hear in 10 minutes,” Costello said of putting the poem to music.
Forever Words, due out April 6th, also features Chris Cornell’s “You Never Knew My Mind,” one of the Soundgarden singer’s final recordings. Other contributors include Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Jewel, Brad Paisley, Kacey Musgraves and Roseanne Cash.