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The best of friends: Roddy Hart and Kris Kristofferson

BOOKMARKS, the first studio album by Glasgow singer-songwriter Roddy Hart, featured a very famous special guest – country music legend Kris Kristofferson.

The two musicians have been friends for years now, despite a substantial age difference – Hart is 28, Kristofferson is 71 – and Hart has been Kristofferson's UK support act since 2004, when the veteran singer-songwriter performed his first acoustic concert in Glasgow, while filming The Jacket with Keira Knightley and Adrien Brody.

Their latest tour together begins in Aberdeen tomorrow and concludes at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Here the two of them talk about their friendship.

HART ON KRISTOFFERSON

CELTIC countries have always been good to me. The audiences seem suited to what I'm doing. I imagine that's why I like Roddy's music too.

The promoter for the first tour suggested him as support and gave me some of his songs. It's the sort of music I like, but he was a little tentative about performing back then. He wasn't sure he wanted to commit to it. I guess he had his degree as a lawyer. But I told him: "The world has enough lawyers. We need good songwriters."

Roddy reminds me of myself because he's so serious about music and primarily considers himself a writer. I reckon his name is appropriate because he's got a lot of heart and so have his songs. But I think he's got a better voice than me. My voice was so unusual that they didn't want me to sing on my own demos when I first went to Nashville. Eventually I did, though, because the publisher couldn't afford anyone else to sing them!

I sang on Roddy's songs because they have good melodies, simple as that. I particularly like Home and was pleased we did it live together the last time I was here. I hope we get to record again too, because I think we harmonise well. If I'm still above ground that is. I'm getting pretty old.

It took a while for my career to take off. But there were people who helped me out, like Johnny Cash, who gave me the exposure I needed. I've always tried to do the same for writers I like, as I did with John Prine and Steve Goodman. I put them on my show at a New York club I was working and they got record deals out of it. I'm sure Roddy is going to be successful. He's certainly got better in the years I've known him. My daughter, whose opinion I respect because she's come to like Bob Dylan as much as I do, may well be his biggest fan.

When I first started performing at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, a woman who worked on The Johnny Cash Show in Nashville got me a gig opening for Linda Ronstadt. It went well, so they had us over for a week and a bunch of film people would hang out there. I'd never thought of acting, but Harry Dean Stanton used to be there, singing Mexican songs, and he brought me my first script and helped me with the screen test.

I didn't even know he was an actor when I met him; he just hung out there and practically lived at Jack Nicholson's.

If Roddy is lucky enough to be around film people, I'm sure he could do it too. I've seen the reaction he provokes, not just in my own family. Could he use a beard to make him uglier? Sure, but I think his looks are something he's got going for him.

HART ON KRISTOFFERSON

At the South By Southwest Festival a few years ago, I found Kris playing a secret gig nearby and asked him if he would play Here Comes The Rainbow Again. Unbeknownst to me, it was also a favourite of Johnny Cash, who had just died. Obviously no-one in the building knew who I was, but when he said: "This is for Johnny Cash and Roddy Hart" it was a special moment.

I think of how he landed a helicopter on Cash's lawn to get his attention, then ended up singing with him and Cash recording his songs. In a way, I've landed a helicopter on his lawn, asking him to listen to my songs. That he was at Oxford, then became a janitor at Columbia Records, that he had such a varied career before establishing himself, is such an inspiration.

I was starting out when I met him and he's been there throughout my career. Those early gigs, it was the first time I'd been in such a huge show with an established name, so there were real nerves. He knew I was unsure how my songs would be received, but he saw something in me that meant he didn't discount me.

He does well in Scotland because of the folk tradition. Bookmarks was definitely country-influenced and I think Kris brought some of that, though I don't think either of us would define ourselves as country.

I wrote the song Home between those first shows I did with Kris in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Seeing him up there alone, singing some of his most famous songs, it stayed with me as I was writing. When I first played it he picked up on it immediately, mentioning lines he loved. He later told me he wished he'd written it. I was pleased, obviously, but back then I hadn't realised how much it was a Kris Kristofferson song.

I sent him it to record for that reason. And My Greatest Success too, because I had Eddi Reader on it. I think she's the Scottish Emmylou Harris and I thought it would be interesting to combine their vocals. Kris's voice has such gravitas. The moment he comes in during Home's second verse, you just know straightaway that it's him. I'm not the best singer in the world but my voice is distinctive, you can tell it's me singing. It's the same with Kris and all those guys he's associated with: Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings. None of them has a technically perfect voice. But they're perfect because they're distinctive.

He's taught me that you need to be true to yourself as a songwriter; you don't need to chase record deals, fads or trends. That's how he's lived his life and the career I have is in large part down to him, because he put a seal of approval on it.

A few years ago I was playing in New York and got a call from the casting director for Marie Antoinette. I was nervous, but I got down to the last two or three for a role that Keira Knightley's then boyfriend got. I never saw myself as a count, but I think he got to bed Kirsten Dunst, so I was definitely interested.

If I could grow a beard I would, but my moustache doesn't meet the rest of it properly. It's like Springsteen's or Dylan's in that respect: rubbish. Every man wants to grow a beard but not every man can. Kris is a real man, though, a credit to beard-wearers.

&#149 Roddy Hart supports Kris Kristofferson at Aberdeen Music Hall, tomorrow and Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on 26 March.

 
 
 

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