I’d been anticipating recording another album for more than a year. I’d been looking forward to working in Nashville my whole life.
I have always been fascinated by the sound of the records made in Nashville. Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, Neil Young’s Harvest and R.E.M.’s Document were all albums that had a great sound, and a great feel, each recorded in that great city. They all sounded like a bunch of people having a good time, making great music together. I knew I would be working with people who were at the top of their game. I wanted to make an album that sounded just like that.
A couple of months before I was due to head to Nashville, I pulled into Calvinia, my dad’s hometown, a dusty dorp in the Northern Cape. I stopped outside a large house that had been the high school from which he had graduated in 1932. I had been here two weeks before, at the start of my motorbike trip. Eight thousand kilometres later, I was glad to be back. It felt like the dust and the space of the Karoo plains had seeped into my soul. Soon I would be working with Kevin in Nashville, after the long break since we had recorded Trancas Canyon.
I thought of how we all set out on a road ahead, and who we would meet on that road. My grandfather had ridden across these plains, as part of a horseback commando against British soldiers. My father had left, on a train for Johannesburg, and returned home in a Whippet motor car, seven years later, to see his family, before enlisting in the Air Force and joining the Second World War. My brother had left on a jet plane, one that had never returned.
My father had played music on this school stoep. I had played music in bars and on stages. In ancient times, the San assembled where this town now sat and looked across these plains divining their mythology in the billions of stars above them. They made music, on gong rocks and sang, soothing their spirits.
Dinosaurs walked where I now sat, crossing a large inland sea. Ancient spirits walked with me, as I walked out of the town, and onto the plains. The moon rose, backlighting “DeToren”, a mountain where Settlers had captured and persecuted San nomads. I had ridden a long way, and I was glad to be back where I’d started. I walked into town, climbed on my iron horse, and headed for the city lights to realise Headlight Dreams.
Steve Louw is a South African singer-songwriter and rock musician. Winner of Best South African Rock Act, and a member of the SA Rock Hall of Fame, Steve is one of SA rock’s most talented and unassuming singer-songwriters. He and his band Big Sky appeared on stage with Rodriguez on the sold-out South African tour in 1998.