Saturday, 29 October 2011

Ron Sexsmith on writing Get In Line... at the Sage!


As a songwriter, I get asked to co-write with other people on a regular basis.

Sometimes it comes directly from the artist and sometimes it comes from my publisher in the UK. I don't really enjoy co-writing, truth be told, but I've had some good experiences and some horrible experiences. This song was inspired by the latter.

I was sent down to LA to write with a successful husband and wife songwriting team (who shall remain nameless). Now, with the exception of "Brandy Alexander" from Exit Strategy and "The Laughing Crowd" from Grand Opera Lane, I have this stubborn little rule when it comes to my own records - I shall not co-write.

For some reason, the people I was about to work with were under the impression that I was enlisting their help to write songs for my next project. After I explained that I had already written it (except for this one) and that I prefer not to co-write for my own records, they asked me to play a few so they could see if they were any good or not.

Whether the songs were any good or not, I don't know... it's not for me to say. But I didn't feel the need to run them by anyone, so I politely declined, saying that I was happy with them and wasn't looking for any critique, but thanks.

Well, as you can see, we sort of got off on the wrong foot and we ended up writing a rather half-assed song, which they both felt I should put on my next record. I asked "Why would I do a song that doesn't mean anything to me?" With that, the female of the two gave me a bit of a lecture on how the record industry has changed from the one I used to know. "Nobody cares about albums any more" and that I need to basically "get over" myself and get with the program.

I just sat there and listened.

It wasn't said in a mean way or anything, and to be honest, I felt that most of what she said was probably true, but on the way back to my hotel room I thought to myself "Well, I like albums."

Around this time I was already feeling depressed and disillusioned with my career. It seemed like I was constantly disappointing people and there was this period there where everybody was lining up to tell me what I was doing wrong. I figured no one was gonna make me feel any worse than I already felt, so I came up with the whole "get in line" idea and it made me feel better just by singing it.

I wrote it in the dressing room whilst opening for Nick Lowe in Newcastle. I used to come out during the encore and sing a Louvin Brothers song with him and so this was written between the time my set ended and his encore began. The other thing I'd like to point out that may seem rather obscure, is that musically, it was influenced by the old Petula Clarke song "My Love" that I loved as a kid. If I hadn't mentioned it here, I don't think anybody would've picked up on that.

And as for the bad song writing experience I had in LA, at least I got this song out of it. (Oh and that's my good friend Paul Hyde from The Payolas singing backing vocals.)


  1. Nice little piece. I don't put many covers in my set these days, but Get In Line is one I love playing. When I get asked afterwards if I wrote it, I'm often tempted to say 'yes!' Failed Christian (as covered by Nick Lowe) is another.