Q: The cover of Wrote a Song for Everyone draws on your fondness for flannel shirts. What do they symbolize for you?
A: They're very American, for starters. When I see someone else wearing a plaid shirt, I think of the "cowboy way." I think of guys like John Wayne who were not real talkative, so when they said something, it meant something. They represent a belief in honesty and telling the truth, even if it hurts — almost a Boy Scout way of living. The shirts are comfortable, and I feel warm and happy when I wear one. You walk in my closet, and it's pretty much just flannel shirts in different colors. [Laughs] I've got almost as many flannel shirts as I have guitars — and I must have a couple hundred of those.
Q: "Bad Moon Rising," "Lodi," "Born on the Bayou" — do you ever get tired of playing these classics?
A: No, not at all. It's kind of a love affair. Those are my children. I can still remember the exact moment I created "Proud Mary" or any other song, because they've become part of my personality.
I was on stage the other night when I looked out and saw thousands of faces singing along to this one song; I had to stop and tell the audience, "Do you guys know how wonderful it is for me to see all of you singing?"
Q: You funded headstones for Charley Patton and Robert Johnson — famous Mississippi bluesmen whose graves had gone unmarked.
A: Yeah, that was a personal quest. Basically I was just trying to sort out the "family tree" of the blues. Charley Patton — somebody who's so important to the field I'm in — wasn't going to have a headstone unless somebody stepped up, so it was a no-brainer. It had to get done.
Q: You have a book in the works. How's that coming?
A: I've chosen a great cowriter, and I know that as soon as the tour's over Julie's going to remind me, "You've got to write that book!" [Laughs] That means a lot of talking, but at least it will be definitive: I'll have a chance to tell my story the way I see it.
Alanna Nash writes about music, entertainment and culture.