Bill Morrissey Returns
Musician-author performs Friday at Nisswa

By Steve Waller
The Brainerd Dispatch, February 5, 1997

Tempo Editor

For 18 months, Bill Morrissey was "on the patch" while writing "Edson," his first novel.

"There's a lot of smoking in the book," he admitted. The characters permitted their author a vicarious pleasure as they came to life.

Such is the afterglow. He is a gratified and gifted lyricist who now follows two paths. He travels not only a folk musician's road but also a demanding literary trail.

Images to the observant artist can ignite the passion that directs creative energy. Through well-honed discipline of joyous endeavor, Bill has arrived and is in his element.

His new recording ("You'll Never get to Heaven") was released about the same time as the book ("Edson") named for a fictional Northeastern milltown.

"Edson" was a project rooted in characters who mature through the poetic lines and melodies of Morrissey's muse.

As he maneuvered characters through "Edson," the author began to "worry" about a couple of them.

"I didn't always know what was going to happen to them," he said. He would awaken five minutes earlier each morning in an anxious state, rush into his home office to check on them, hoping they hadn't been injured.

Bill says he had undertaken the writing of a book after completing his previous recording, "Night Train."

"I needed to tell a longer story, something that couldn't be said in three or four minute songs," he said. "Once I started, I was committed to finishing the novel.

"I was on tour with the new album, and I wrote in motel rooms, tour buses, at home. I wanted to finish it, to stay focused on the book. I didn't write a song for a year and a half. I thought 'to get it published would be nice,' but the focus was on finishing it." He knows too many who've never finished books they began.

Realizing it had been 18 months since he'd written a song, Bill had to deal with another fear. Could he still write a song?

The day after he sent the manuscript of "Edson" to his publisher, "Bill the Songwriter" discovered that his songwriting "muscles" hadn't atrophied.

His fortunes and creative juices are alive and well, with album No. 7 on the Philo/Rounder label, "You'll Never Get to Heaven," as powerful proof.

Friday, he returns for his third Grassroots Concert in six years, he'll likely share anecdotes about the fictional friends who share space in a fertile mind. He often reads to the audience a brief passage directly linked to songs and situations in the music he plays.

Bill thinks he's about half way into his second book. "But you never really know how long it will be," he said. "You have to deal with the characters, their situations. They may start rebelling, asserting themselves."

The seeds of characters for a book may be sown in his songs. Similarly, the ideas for songs may germinate while he's in the middle of writing a book.

He has some songs emerging as he scribes the new novel.

"I have a microcassette with me," he said, so that if he stumbles onto an image for a song just before going onstage, he captures enough of the concept and melody to reclaim and refine it later.

He often retires early following concerts, preferring the quiet environment of thought generation to gregarious festivities that can reduce productive energy.

Bill remembers how good it feels to be among attentive, empathetic people such as those who come to Grassroots Concerts in search of musical camaraderie. They helped him out of a funk in his 1994 concert at Nisswa.

"I had driven for hours before playing there last time. I was tired and spacy from the ride," he recalls. "The audience was so great, that it recharged me. I saw that they were there to hear the songs. The adrenalin kicked in. It's an oasis on a tour that includes some places with stiff atmosphere."

Performing 100 to 150 concerts per year, Bill occasionally has to deal with the drag ratio. "You take gigs sometimes because you have to pay the rent," he admits.

He lauds the area concert organization. Gigs such as this recharge a troubadour. The last time he played here, Bill received the best payment - centering the spirit - and that pays better.