“As a songwriter he can easily take his place in that hallowed area occupied by the likes of Randy Newman, Bruce Cockburn and Tom Waits.”
~ Musician Magazine.
Bell’s songs have been performed and recorded by such diverse talents as Little Feat, Lyle Lovett and Nanci Griffith, and both a ballet and musical have been set to his work. Along with five critically acclaimed CDs and a live performance DVD, he is the author of an autobiography, One Man’s Music: The Life and Times of Texas Songwriter Vince Bell and one-man performance piece, One Man’s Music: A Monologue with Song.
“Vince is a poet,” said the late Townes Van Zandt
Bell’s new work Ojo is an improv; Bell’s poetry realized by the notes of stellar avant garde, jazz, and Americana musicians. Ojo creates a dreamscape: bewitching the conscious and unconscious mind. “Vince Bell is a writer”, says producer Bob Neuwirth, who together with producers Dave Soldier (Soldier String Quartet, owner of Ojo’s Mulatta Records) and Patrick Derivaz brought 40 years of Vince’s words and the vision of Ojo to life. Ojo was recorded in three days New York City in an abandoned bank on Wall Street, music and vocal harmonies set to poems, verses, words from Vince’s collection creating one performance piece. Producers Neuwirth, Soldier and Derivaz assembled a group of nine accomplished musicians from across the musical spectrum: Americana chanteuse Laura Cantrell, Flamenco master guitarist Pedro Cortes, SNL percussionist Valerie Dee Naranjo, jazz great Ratzo B. Harris on bass, Rob Schwimmer on keyboards and continuum, composer Renaud-Gabriel Pion on piano and clarine, flute maestro Robert Dick, David Mansfield on string and Satoshi Takeishi stopped by on his way back from a European concert tour to play drums and percussion for a day. (April 3, 2018, Mulatta Records)
1. What’s been keeping you up at night?
Writing a new can of worms. Improvisational writing like improvisational
music. The pieces are unedited streams of thought, done in the time it
takes to write them down. I miss a good few ideas because I can’t type
fast, or well enough to remember them all to the page before I forget
them. They are brainstorms improvised not calculated.
2. What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen or heard lately?
Writing is a visual like a ticker tape. If you can’t see it in your mind’s
eye, you can’t write it. And if you aren’t looking for something to write
about, you probably aren’t a writer. Write your way out of the fog, write
your way out of boredom, write your way into a living wage, write your way
out of harm. You can write your way into big trouble. You can write so
that some might know. You can write for your girlfriend, you can write for
3. What’s the most exciting thing you¹re working on right now?
And y’know when you finally get down to it, you have to be a ruthless
editor as much as a writer. If you can’t fling that garbage to the ashcan,
you won’t find what it was you were looking for in the first place. And
your opinion of that changes too. Most times the words will tell you what
you really think, not the other way around. It’s a comfort to know those
elusive words, but they remain sidekicks like a puzzle. No wonder writers
get writers block.
4. If you could add anyone alive or dead to your team, who would it be?
There’s a writer on the team. There’s a writer working with his head down
in a field. There’s a writer on horseback making sure that guy who thinks
he’s a writer is not writing with his head down. You don’t have to know
anything to be a writer. But when you write you just might learn
something. That’s right, you can write when you don’t know anything.
Worse, you can write when you don’t know what you are talking about. Is
there an echo in here?
5. When the movie of your life is made, what will it be called?
The Vin/ce Code:
You play like you practice.
It’s not how long, it’s how often.
One song teaches another.
So it’s not when you get it,
It’s that you get it. Get it?
I am a writer. Writers are toads, and writers are gentle men and women, and there will never be enough of them.
Writers are after-hour stockers at Walmart. Writers are golf course maintenance technicians. Writers are refuse collectors. Writers are software developers. Writers hang paper on doorknobs. Writers are guitar players in the evening, and snow plow operators in the day.
Writers are patent office clerks. Writers are class B mulch installers. Writers sell corrugated boxes. There’s a bevy of writers on every second-hand bookstore shelf. A writer just might be pushing your grocery cart.
There’s a writer on the team. There’s a writer in the band. There’s a writer on the night shift. There’s a writer where you least expect it. There’s a writer in the works. There’s a writer behind the wheel of a cab. There’s a writer under your skin, there’s a writer under your foot, and there’s a writer under your thumb.
There’s a writer working with his head down in a field. There’s a writer on horseback making sure that guy who thinks he’s a writer is not writing with his head down. There’s a writer wandering in the woods.
You don’t have to know anything to be a writer. But when you write you just might learn something. That’s right, you can write when you don’t know anything. Worse, you can write when you are young.
I wrote in stairwells. I wrote in speeding cars. I wrote in airport lounges, I wrote on transcontinental jets, I wrote on cross-country trips. I wrote in shopping mall parking lots. I pulled over to write in lonely two-lane blacktop rest stops. I wrote on busy interstate shoulders. I wrote in nasty, graffiti filled truck stop bathrooms because of the Radio City Music Hall reverberation, and because the heater worked better than the one in my Rambler.
I wrote in typing class, I wrote when I was taking a driver’s test. I wrote in the dentist’s office. I wrote on the run, I wrote when there was nothing to write about. I wrote when I was trying to shut my eyes for five minutes during sound check. I wrote when I was asleep in the big hotel. Man, I would’ve written in a Christiansted jail, but I was still loaded so they wouldn’t let me near a pencil.
I wrote on matchbook covers. The matchbook cover will outlast the typewriter, the computer, the phablet, the cellphone, and the AppleWatch combined.
Writing is a way to regard the world. I wrote when I did not have a thing to say. Writing is a way to know what you really think. If I can’t write about it, I don’t really know what it is. But, some days I can’t write or haven’t written anything.
“On the day you don’t write, you aren’t a writer,” Hemingway said, kinda.
Writing is a visual. If you can’t see it in your mind’s eye, you can’t write it. And If you aren’t looking for something to write about, you probably aren’t a writer. Write your way out of the fog, write your way out of boredom, write your way into a living wage, write your way out of harm. You can write your way into big trouble. You can write so that some might know. You can write for your girlfriend, or you can write for yourself.
And finally to help me retire my pen to the inkwell, the obligatory football metaphor: It’s been third and long for years, but in my good time I followed that writer’s block to many a first, and ten.