They say you should never meet your heroes, that you’ll only end up disappointed. They could be right. For one thing I’m a little long in the tooth to have a hero in the first place. I’m also too cynical to believe I could have my heart broken by a book, but Willy Vlautin has done that at least twice. Last week I had the opportunity to meet him after a Delines gig in Newcastle and I wasn’t about to pass that up regardless of what ‘they’ might say.
If you have landed
here by chance rather than design and don’t know who I’m talking about then
allow me to enlighten you. Willy Vlautin is an author and a musician and one of
the world’s best kept secrets. His band Richmond Fontaine have flown comfortably
under the radar for years, and now his latest project, The Delines are rapidly
becoming the best Alternative Country outfit you have never heard of. The
combination of Willy’s story-telling lyrics coupled with the glorious
world-weary vocal of Amy Boone produced one of the best albums of 2014 in
Colfax. Given the fact that I’m unlikely ever to see Bruce Springsteen play a
set at the Stone Pony then hearing those songs performed in a small, intimate venue
like Newcastle’s Cluny 2 is about as close to perfection as live music is ever
likely to get for me.
digress, as much as I enjoy Willy Vlautin’s music, it’s his words that I really
dig. I discovered his work by accident when looking for books set in my adopted
state of Nevada. His first novel, The Motel Life (recently made into a darn
good movie starring Emile Hirsch, Stephen Dorff & Dakota Fanning, which
again went largely unnoticed) had a pretty big influence on my own stuff. His second,
Northline is the novel I wish I could write. So when I noticed him hovering by
the mech table after the gig I had to go over and risk both making a dick of
myself and shattering my illusions of a guy I have admired for the best part of
10 years. I needn’t have worried, while I may have still been a dick, Willy was great.
You couldn’t wish to meet a nicer, more genuine guy. We talked books for a
while, discussed a mutual friend and to top things off I got a personally signed
copy of The Motel Life.
I’m not sure
this story has a moral, but if it does then perhaps it’s that you shouldn’t believe
everything ‘they’ tell you, or maybe just that it is still okay to have the odd hero,
either way you should really go check out Willy Vlautin.