Songwriters Interviews; Professor Pinkerton, Dead Man's Carnival

Stanton West, Songwriters Interviews with Professor Pinkerton of the Dead Man's Carnival at the Gerold Opera House in Weyauwega, WI during Mardi Gra 2020.

I sat down in the dressing room with the professor and he shared songwriting tidbits for both his circus act and his music/band project. Some of the ideas we explore are allowing yourself the space and time to let a song come, but also do the opposite and give yourself a deadline in order to finish a song. Here's a great quote from Napoleon Hill, "A goal is just a dream with a deadline". How many unfinished songs have your written? How many songs have you finished? He also speaks on how having predetermined subject matter can help in songwriting because it give you parameters to work within. There are some real gems of wisdom here! He ended with a little ditty with the last word being Trust. I thought that was fitting, because when you are crafting a song you need to trust yourself, and the process, so that you don't get in the way of yourself.

After the interview he went upstairs and performed on stage on a full sized grand piano for a packed house of colorfully dressed Mardi Gras enthusiasts. He also acted as master of ceremonies for the evening and performed some vaudeville style circus acts. He is a top notch entertainer and a very sociable person. During the event he mentioned that people didn't recognize him because both his long mustache was not waxed and curled up and his long hair was down and flowing. He literally let his hair down for this event! His old timey suit was very classy and you could see bits of his sleeve tattoos. When he wasn't onstage entertaining he was perusing the room rolling a gold coin up and down the tops of his fingers like an old gangster.

Thanks for sharing some songwriting wisdom Professor! Now it's time to write a song. Download my FREE Songwriters Guide at my website: to get started. Who would you like to see me interview? Comment Below. You can find more interviews of professional musicians on my YouTube Channel Playlist title: Songwriters Interviews or on my Facebook Page.


Epiphanies: When inspiration strikes try to hold to the idea chase the it until it pitters out of your mind.

Defined parameters can be confining and inspiring. For example, write a country/waltz has very specific parameters that you can deviate from and put your own fingerprint on. Add a plot twist, a narrative, then go and paint in details: tempo, key…

There’s no one way that a song always happens. Let your mind wander. Don’t write polka just because your in a polka band. Chase the muse and figure out what you’ll do with the song later.

Listen to what you like.

There were less rules in early American music. Calculated music can feel contrived to an informed ear.

To find inspiration be uncompromising in setting time aside to daydream. Allow yourself to enjoy the journey in early steps of a song and don’t think about the end results yet. Allow yourself a second to pull a song into the world and make a bed for it. Once the song is near completion a deadline can be helpful. Everyone has 30 or 40 half written songs sitting in a notebook somewhere. You’ll learn more from finishing something that’s luke warm than you will half finishing your masterpiece.

Be kind to yourself. Every misstep will be forgotten in the greater scheme of things in your creative journey.

I know Professor Pinkerton is influenced greatly by Tom Waits so I'll end this with a few quotes and a story by Mr. Waits.

“My kids are starting to notice I'm a little different from the other dads. "Why don't you have a straight job like everyone else?" they asked me the other day.

I told them this story: In the forest, there was a crooked tree and a straight tree. Every day, the straight tree would say to the crooked tree, "Look at me...I'm tall, and I'm straight, and I'm handsome. Look at're all crooked and bent over. No one wants to look at you." And they grew up in that forest together. And then one day the loggers came, and they saw the crooked tree and the straight tree, and they said, "Just cut the straight trees and leave the rest." So the loggers turned all the straight trees into lumber and toothpicks and paper. And the crooked tree is still there, growing stronger and stranger every day.” ― Tom Waits

“I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things.” ― Tom Waits

“There ain't no devil, only God when he's drunk.” ― Tom Waits

“The world is a hellish place, and bad writing is destroying the quality of our suffering.”

― Tom Waits

“A gentleman is someone who can play the accordion, but doesn't.” ― Tom Waits

“the earth is not my home, I'm just passing by” ― Tom Waits

“I’ve always been a word guy, I like weird words and I like American slang and all that and words that are no longer being used… I like to drag them out of the box and wave them around… this is an interesting one, it’s amazing how in addition to punctuation just a little pause in the wrong place can just completely transform the meaning of something.”

― Tom Waits

“All that you've loved is all you own” ― Tom Waits

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