(EBM) John Prine has come to be revered as Americana's premiere songwriter/artist. With a strong empathy for the human condition, the Chicago-born-and-raised daydreamer went on to become a voice who spoke for the unseen and an artist who gave gravitas to those society didn't bother with.
PRINE ON PRINE: Interviews & Encounters, which arrives Sept. 12 from Chicago Review Press, traces the man whose songs have been recorded by Raitt, George Strait, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Loretta Lynn, Bettye LaVette, Miranda Lambert, Carly Simon, Susan Tedeschi, Johnny Cash across his five-decade career. Part of the Musicians in Their Own Words series, for Gleason who'd known Prine her entire adult life, this is a labor of love.
To celebrate its release, Gleason will be in conversation with 3x GRAMMY winner Steve Earle at 7pm, Sept. 13 at Strand's 3rd Floor Rare Books Room, Broadway at 12th Street.
"Like John, Steve understands songs about average people yield some very strong emotion - and insight into the human condition," shares Gleason. "John respected Steve so much, and in many ways, he shares John's sense of decency when it comes to working people. Having spent three years reading and culling these pieces, I wanted someone who understands that part of John, that's so simple and unassuming, yet guts you with the truth. You don't see Sam Stone or Donald & Lydia, the old couple or the Angel coming, but you don't forget."
Documenting various phases of Prine's careers via appearances in the media and other places, PRINE ON PRINE collects work from noted mediacrats Studs Terkel, Roger Ebert, Cameron Crowe, Robert Hilburn, then Poet Laureate Ted Kooser, Robert Christgau, Dave Hoekstra, Michael McCall and Grammy-winner Bob Mehr. It also reaches into the most unlikely places: Prine runs away with a writer from Hot Rod, graces No Depression's cover, takes a bespoke role in Billy Bob Thornton's "Daddy and Them," receives the Pen Literary Award for Lyrical Achievement from John Mellencamp, a PEOPLE profile, taking Emmy-winning Mike Leonard on the road twice for NBC's "Today" and a couple favorite recipes and stories in Shuck Bean, Stack Cake & Honest Fried Chicken. Record company bios, Chicago folk history, starting labels and cooking dinner, publications long gone and a throwdown with Bobby Bare are all part of the fun.
"Whether it's Robert Hilburn seeing John in the limbo of life without a major label, Dave Hoekstra celebrating the Earl of Old Town's anniversary, as well as Steve Goodman and the Chicago folk scene that birthed both men or Chris Willman delving into women's reproductive autonomy for a charity single of 'Unwed Fathers' with Margo Price, Prine's aim was true," Gleason explains. "He was fun and funny, but mostly he wanted to see people treat each other with kindness and respect. He was all for everybody, but he had a strong sense of values and decency... and that stayed consistent throughout his career."
Gleason, the former fiancée of Oh Boy, Red Pajamas and Blue Plate Music co-founder and Prine co-manager Dan Einstein, met Prine as a young journalist working for The Miami Herald. Spending many of her formative years as a nationally recognized music critic in Prine's world, the access provides empiric insight into many of these pieces. Gleason later provided media strategy and services for In Spite of Ourselves and Fair & Square, remaining friends with the GRAMMY-winning legend throughout his life.
"PRINE ON PRINE is as much about capturing an artist creating something that hadn't really been done, tracing the arc from unthinkable to commonplace. It would not be nearly the book it is without the help of Dan Einstein, who passed away as the book was nearing completion. But he got on the phone, made calls and helped find some of the pieces here, which might have been lost forever based on what it took to track down some of them. Even the cover picture - from a photo session for PEOPLE - was basically forgotten."
Having created, edited and contributed to Woman, Walk The Line, the 2018 Belmont Book Award winning collection of essays about how female country artists profoundly impact individual lives with contributions from Taylor Swift, New York Times best-selling author Alice Randall, Rosanne Cash, GRAMMY-winning historian Holly George-Warren, poet Caroline Randall Williams, top James Beard Award winner Ronni Lundy, food activist Ali Berlow and more, Gleason understands curating a narrative can sometimes reach places a single reported narrative can't. That was the goal for PRINE ON PRINE, and across myriad mediums, moments and conversations, a sense of the man across his truly lived life emerges.
Pre-order PRINE ON PRINE: Interviews & Encounters here.