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Tommy Prine, son of the late John Prine, crafts his own sound

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We have a story of the legacy of John Prine.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PLEASE DON'T BURY ME")

JOHN PRINE: (Singing) Woke up this morning, put on my slippers, walked in the kitchen and died.

INSKEEP: In half a century of songwriting, John Prine depicted characters struggling with drugs, war, loneliness and loss. Yet he wrote of people with sympathy that made you like them and irreverence that made you laugh.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PLEASE DON'T BURY ME")

J PRINE: (Singing) Please, don't bury me down in the cold, cold ground. No, I'd druther have them cut me up and pass me all around.

INSKEEP: My college roommate introduced me to John Prine songs playing them on guitar. And when Prine died in the pandemic in 2020, I felt like I'd lost a friend. Then a colleague told me his son is a singer, too.

Did you assume that you would follow the same career path?

TOMMY PRINE: Honestly, no.

INSKEEP: But here he is, Tommy Prine.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BOYHOOD")

T PRINE: (Singing) Daddy, won't you come outside? I feel lost today. And he said, son, yeah, you ain't done. Just look how far you came.

INSKEEP: The younger Prine is 27. He says he grew up in a house full of music in Nashville.

T PRINE: Music was always playing. Or my dad was always playing something or writing something. You know, there was a guitar or a piano in most rooms.

INSKEEP: And as a teenager, Tommy sometimes went on tour as his dad played his hits.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ANGEL FROM MONTGOMERY")

J PRINE: (Singing) Make me an angel that flies from Montgomery.

INSKEEP: He'd sell merch during the show. And then he got to come up onstage to help play the encore. But he didn't think that he'd have a career onstage until he had a chance to play a set on his own.

T PRINE: There's a phrase that is common in, like, performers. It's like, you catch the bug or you don't, you know? Like, you have a good time or you don't, performing. And I definitely did.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOMMY PRINE SONG, "BY THE WAY")

INSKEEP: His first full-length album is called "This Far South." Memories of his father are all over it.

T PRINE: I think the passing of my father stirred up a lot of things in me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BY THE WAY")

T PRINE: (Singing) And I don't want to move the shoes I keep in the back of my car, the ones you got me at 17 when Mom thought I moved way too far.

I think the way that I chose to work through that just kind of came out as songs.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BY THE WAY")

T PRINE: (Singing) Can I breathe all of me into a bottle and throw it in the sea? By the way, people say I look just like you.

INSKEEP: Tommy Prine's mother is his manager now, just as she was for John Prine. He draws material from his own life, as with a song that seems to be filled with arguments.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MIRROR AND A KITCHEN SINK")

T PRINE: (Singing) It seems to me that you know it all. You learned it over beers with the pope last fall and built yourself a castle with a big glass wall. Everybody knows you're proud.

So that was actually the first song that I wrote after my dad passed. I ended up writing this, like, very goofy song about, like, fake people and fake arguments with these fake people that I'll never meet and arguments that'll never happen, you know? Like, I tend to, like, create these, like, weird situations. Like, if someone said this, then I would say this, therefore I would win the argument. And I don't know why I'm like that, but...

(LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: Oh, I think a lot of people walk around like that...

T PRINE: Yeah, see? Yeah, thank you.

INSKEEP: ...Thinking of the line they should have said or they would say.

T PRINE: Yes, thank you for saying that because whenever I, like, introduce the song at some shows, there's always, like, one or two people that are like, that's just you, buddy.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MIRROR AND A KITCHEN SINK")

T PRINE: (Singing) And I think that I win every single argument. But now it's you and me, a mirror and a kitchen sink.

INSKEEP: That line from the refrain - and I think that I win every single argument - there's something about that line that sounded like your father's songwriting to me.

T PRINE: Yeah, definitely. And, you know, I think some people might, you know, think this sounds kind of crazy, but I do feel like he had a hand in kind of helping me write that song. He probably would have liked the song, too.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CRASHING AGAIN")

T PRINE: (Singing) I'm not good at growing up. And lately I've been feeling stuck.

INSKEEP: Well, Tommy Prine, it's a real pleasure talking with you. Thank you so much.

T PRINE: Thank you, Steve. Thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: His album is "This Far South."

(SOUNDBITE OF TOMMY PRINE SONG, "CRASHING AGAIN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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