Mike Zito (with Anders Osborne) – “I Was Drunk”
Mike Zito excels through honesty. Instead of trotting out worn clichés, with each new song he opens a window to his soul and allows us a glimpse of what’s going on inside. In his 46 years, Zito has been there and done that, and he wants to let us know what the experience was like, whether it was good, bad or ugly.
He’s been uniquely candid about the addiction issues that sabotaged his early efforts to make it professionally. In the past ten years, hopeful songs such as “Keep Coming Back” and “One Step At A Time” have appeared like signposts to mark his way along the recovery journey.
“I Was Drunk,” written together with Anders Osborne – a man who has dealt with similar problems – takes a darker tack in exploring the misery and self-destructiveness of alcoholism.
“We both write songs about addiction. They’re either about the dark side of addiction, about doin’ drugs or whatever. Or you write these really hopeful tunes,” says Zito of his collaboration with the Louisiana-based musician. “As for ‘I Was Drunk’: I had already written the song, more or less, and I wanted Anders to contribute some verse lyrics. We had already recorded the song ‘One Step at a Time’ together – and again, I was like, we did that song and it’s really hopeful, about how everything gets better. But there were a lot of other times where you would say it didn’t get better. It was bad. People got hurt. A really sad state of affairs. That’s what ‘I Was Drunk’ is about.”
Musically, the song is rooted in country rather than blues.
“I grew up with as much country as blues in St. Louis,” recalls Zito, who has since settled near Houston. “In St. Louis, you would go to a country bar to hear a country band. Or go to a blues bar to hear a blues band. Where I live now in Texas, there’s no country bar or blues bar. There are just these big roadhouses where the bands play all that shit. You’ll see country bands that play Stevie Ray Vaughan. Or you’ll see a blues band that plays Willie Nelson. The lines are totally blurred. That’s where I feel I belong.”
In the case of “I Was Drunk,” he just picked up his guitar and started strumming. “It’s like an old Merle Haggard song,” he says. “I don’t even think about it anymore, whether a song is bluesy or country. It seems to go hand in hand.”
From Zito’s outstanding 2015 release Keep Coming Back, here is “I Was Drunk.”