• Hope Gibbs

“Without music, life would be a blank to me.” Jane Austen

Music has always played an important role in my life. Growing up, I dabbled with it a time or two. From singing soprano in my middle school choir to my sad attempts at playing clarinet (sorry Mr. Kent) it’s filled my life with countless hours of joy. I couldn’t imagine a day without it. Even now, nothing makes me happier than singing at the top of my lungs to one of my favorite songs. Sometimes, in the privacy of my car, or if the mood strikes, I might even sneak away to a karaoke bar and belt out a couple of tunes. In my dreams, I want to be the next Maren Morris mixed with a little Linda Ronstadt.


Luckily for me, I’m blessed to live right outside of Nashville, Tennessee. Music City USA has been my home for over a quarter of a century. For those who aren’t familiar with this unique town, it’s full of live music venues on every corner. You can even catch a show at our airport at seven in the morning. But that’s not the only reason Nashville is so special. It’s also home to some insanely talented individuals. The ones who made it all possible in the first place…songwriters. I believe they are some of the greatest storytellers on the planet. In three minutes, they can weave together a story that can either break your heart into a million pieces or put a smile on your face in a second.


When I began my writing journey back in 2017, I wasn’t sure where it would lead. Though I’d been toying with the idea of writing a book, I hadn’t taken that first step into the unknown. One day, I decided to take a leap of faith. Pulling out my laptop, I began typing. A few weeks later, I had close to ten thousand words. A good start, I thought. But soon I realized all I had to show for my efforts were a couple of characters with complex backstories. Occasionally, a scene or two would appear, but something was missing. I had no direction or focus. However, all that changed one Sunday morning in early April with a song. One that I didn’t stumble across in a honky tonk on Broadway or at a concert at Bridgestone Arena, but in the most unexpected place.

During a poignant sermon, our senior pastor, who has a gift with words, mentioned Bob Dylan. Naturally, my ears perked up. A clergyman quoting Dylan? In a church? That’s not something you hear on an ordinary Sunday. Then he turned his attention towards one song in particular. One that I’d never heard of, Tangled Up In Blue. When those four words hit the air, it caused my heart to skip a beat and the hairs on my freckly arms stood at attention.

The second we were dismissed, I rushed outside and pulled out my phone. I had to listen to this song. Bob Dylan’s unique voice and sublime lyrics transported me. Finally, I’d found what I was looking for. No longer would my novel be a dream, but a reality. But that was only the tip of the iceberg. With the help of my iPhone and a subscription to Apple Music, I began compiling a playlist specifically for this novel to inspire me along the way. These songs, mixed with my imagination, gave me a glimpse into thirty years of my protagonist’s life.

When I wasn’t typing away until the wee hours of the morning with my dog Harley by my side, my seven-pound shih tzu who is secretly plotting my demise, I was listening to these songs. Exercising, folding laundry, driving around town, it consumed me. So much so, I know each one by heart.

My musical inspirations for Where The Grass Grows Blue:

Tangled Up in Blue

Performed & Written by Bob Dylan

Of course, I started with this song. I still listen to it weekly.

Name

Performed by The Goo Goo Dolls

Written by John Rzeznik

One afternoon, while I was driving my children to another after school activity, I stumbled across this song. Though I’d always loved it, I never took the time to really listen to the words. When the first line of the second verse rang out, it blew me away.

Hazy Shade of Winter

Performed by The Bangles

Written by Paul Simon

I had no idea that Paul Simon wrote this song when I was a teenager back in the eighties, listening to this song over and over again in my bedroom. However, it encapsulates the mood of my protagonist at one of her darkest moments.

American Girl

Performed by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Written by Tom Petty

This is my protagonist’s anthem. The second verse still sends a chill down my spine. It never fails. Plus, it’s an incredible song to run to.

American Girl

Performed by Luke Sital-Singh

Written by Tom Petty

This version is simply beautiful. Same song, different vibe.

Cruel Summer

Performed by Bananarama

Written by Sara Dallin, Siobhan Fahey, Steve Jolley, Tony Swain & Keren Woodward

This reminds me of seventh grade. All one hundred and eighty painful days of it.

Heaven

Performed by Bryan Adams

Written by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallace

In my opinion, it’s the best love song of the eighties. Plus, Bryan Adams is my favorite male artist of that decade.

*Summer of 69 gets an honorable mention.

When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder

Performed by Johnny Cash

Written by James Milton Black

I love gospel music and this hymnal in particular. There’s no better musical ambassador or voice to bring this wonder to life.

Softly and Tenderly

Performed by Anna Weatherup

Written by Will Lamartine Thompson

Anna’s simplistic rendition, her exquisite voice of this marvel of a song, brought me to a place I never thought I would ever allow myself to go again. Thank you, Anna.

Softly and Tenderly

Performed by Chris Springer

Written by Will Lamartine Thompson

This one is instrumental, just a piano. It’s a beautiful rendition and gave me a key plot twist.

The Last Worthless Evening

Performed by Don Henley

Written by John Corey, Don Henley, Stan Lynch

There’s a lyrical gem hidden in this incredible song. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

Let It Be Me

Performed by Ray LaMontagne

Written by Ray LaMontagne

The snare drum mixed with a woody guitar takes you to another place. In my opinion, it’s a masterpiece.

Both Sides, Now

Performed & Written by Joni Mitchell

My favorite song of all time. Hands down. Young illusions. Harsh adult realities. Enlightenment. Growth. Do yourself a favor and listen to this classic.

Fix You

Performed by Coldplay

Written by Chris Martin, Jonny Buckland, Guy Berryman & Will Champion

The last two minutes of this song…pure gold.

All That You Are

Performed by The Goo Goo Dolls

Written by John Rzeznik, John Shanks

This song is all about hope.

Tangled Up in Blue

Performed by The Indigo Girls

Written by Bob Dylan

I adore this version. All eight minutes of it.

Until next time…