People said my records were 'funky' and 'muddy,' but the truth is they were just demos.
— J. J. Cale
Where I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, it wasn't the south-east and it wasn't the deep south and it wasn't quite the south-west either.
When they say, 'Well, you gotta do some interviews on TV,' I went, 'Oh, I like to watch TV, but I don't wanna be on it.'
I sure love to write songs, but I'm not so sure of my voice.
I sing and play guitar, but songwriting is how I pay my rent. And so I didn't really need a lot of publicity to get people to record the songs.
Widespread Panic discovered a couple of my songs and started doin' 'em on the gigs. They'd take a song and expand it and everybody plays a long time and people really like that. But I made my living as a songwriter so I try to get to singin' and get it over with.
I would never ever sing at all if I could get away with it. I had pitch problems, no range. So what I did was manipulate the sound... that way you couldn't tell that I wasn't very good.
I was an engineer for a long time. I was a sideman guitar player.
I ain't got much to say.
No. 1, I'm a songwriter, and I don't really get out and tour.
I always wrote for musicians, especially guitarists. I write songs that people who aren't great virtuosos can play.
You never know how people are going to find songs for their records. Sometimes people will hear songs on someone else's record and really like 'em.
That's the nice thing about songwriting: You don't have to punch a clock or be in a specific place to do it. There's really a lot of freedom to it.
When I sit down and play the guitar, I'm 20 years old again.
When you get successful, the money comes in and pretty soon you've got to hire an accountant, you've got to get up early, and then you've got a day job.
Oil was the big business in Tulsa and there was quite a bit of nightlife for a small town. You could never make any money, but you could always find a place to play.
I've always tried to come up with something that would catch your ear.
Makin' records is one art form and playin' live is another. It's like the difference between makin' a movie and doin' theatre.
The only albums that I have personally named were 'number 5,' 'number 8' and 'number 10.'
I rarely have any contact with the artists who cover my songs.
I cut all my early records in Nashville, so I guess that makes me country. I call it country pop, but my love of the blues is in there, too.
If I was strictly an artist, I'd have to learn to dance and get a shiny suit and stuff.
I was kind of a sideman. Then I became kind of a singer-songwriter.
I'm a recording studio guy, an engineer, a songwriter and a guitar player, in that order.
A lot of people are coming down on people taking old rock 'n' roll songs and making commercials out of them, but from a songwriter's standpoint, I don't mind because it helps pay my rent.
I just play my guitar and push my songs and I'd like to keep it quiet.
Everybody lives in a city, cause there's not too many people in the small towns who can find work.
I'm always doing something that ain't happening, and I'm always happening when there ain't nothing going on.
Songwriting is just like any other kind of writing - it's either fiction or nonfiction. You can even get into philosophy and politics, which I've done on occasion.
I love the rabbits and the squirrels and the birds.
I wanted to be able to play music, and then when I went out in my private life, my personal life, I didn't want to be famous.
I was a studio engineer out in L.A. for about six or seven years, and I played sideman for different people, and played in bar bands. I was an old man of 32 when I made my first album.
I figure that most people will remember me for the songs I wrote.
I've always enjoyed playing. If all it meant were to just stand there and play my axe and sing, I could have gone on forever.
That's kinda what happened to me: I listened to jazz, country, R&B, rock 'n' roll. And when I sat down to write a song, I had all these influences comin' through.
I didn't have a phone there for about 10 years.
Playing out in a band all the time at least you made money. Even if you have a hit song, it takes about two years to pay.
The music is the same if you go all the way back to the first albums I made or the middle or whatever. The thing that's different is the lyrics.
I'm basically a songwriter, man. Songwriters are down in the fine print, you know? And I really enjoy that.
All my music sounds the same to me.
I'm an electronic manipulator. Most people think J.J. Cale, he's organic. There ain't nothing organic about me.
Ask any guitar player - it's hard to feed yourself when you're picking for a living.
I'd do the blues all the time if I could, that's what I'm into. But people just don't like to hear it.
All artists are redundant about their own style; they can't escape themselves.
I've stolen licks from just about every person that ever picked up a guitar. We all borrow from one another; it's called legitimate stealing.
Sometimes I make up songs, and they're just strictly fiction. Other times, I draw on things that have happened in my life or friends, women, all sorts of things.
You know, I write songs, I repair guitars.
My performing and my singing leave much to be desired, but having other people record my songs is the most flattering thing that can happen.
I played a lot of nightclubs in and around Tulsa till I was about 22, 24 years old, then I started travellin' around.
I'd say writing songs is, for me, as much playing the tape recorder as it is playing guitar or writing words.