Season 4, Episode 7
Tom Franklin + Ben Glover

Tom Franklin

Photo by Andy Anderson

Tom Franklin is a proudly Southern author, and he has found that his sense of place and identity is firmly fixed.

“It’s lodged there,” Tom says, “And I just can’t get away from it, away from certain events there, some of them not good. The place haunts me.”

For this week’s episode, Tom reads two pieces of short fiction. These are sometimes referred to as flash fiction or shorts, and like the best songs, they are works of radical compression. In fact, it is the limitation of the form that keeps Tom intrigued.

“I find it quite hard to make one that works,” Tom says. “With so few words you really can’t let anything go astray. Everything has to be right on the mark.”

Ben Glover & the Orphan Brigade

Photo by Paolo Brillo

Songwriter Ben Glover is from Ireland, but like Tom, he has a deep connection to the American South. Ben described a connection he experiences, an invisible, almost-spiritual bond between Ireland and the South.

“I do believe it’s the turbulent history of the two places,” Ben says. “Coming from the north of Ireland, where I grew up, it’s always been a troubled country. It sharpens your senses, especially when you go into other places that may have had a turbulent history.”

Ben struggled to encapsulate Tom’s two pieces into the song he wrote in response. In part this was because – like a lot of the people in Tom’s work – the characters in these pieces are difficult, unruly, and fierce.

“[Tom] creates these characters that are deeply flawed, and they’re suffering,” Ben says. “Do I really like these characters? I’m not sure I do.”

The key to Ben’s song, which was written with his band, The Orphan Brigade, was in embracing the hardest parts of the stories.

There’s something very endearing about the darkness,” Ben argues, “Because that’s where compassion can arise…in a weird way, when I’m writing about the darkness, I’m also writing about the light, too. Because it’s all the same thing.”