I Like Trains 

Song: I Like Trains 

Album: Americana 

Written by: Fred Eaglesmith 

Music Arranged by: JonEmery Dodds, Dan Sisson, Monty DeVita & James Blaylock 

Players: JonEmery: Vocal, Acoustic Guitar, Dan Sisson: Electric Guitars, Monty DeVita: Bass, James Blaylok: Drums 

Engineered by: Mark Stein 

Mixed by: Lance Jackman 

Mastered by: Gary Fiori 

 

The Story Behind The Song : I Like Trains 

The best place to start this story is with a band called Soggy Biscuit.  It’s 2003 in a little town of Sonoma County called Cotati. It is rich in music history from the “Inn Of The Beginning” days.  I’m a single parent, managing local record store while finding my footing as an artist. The local scene was thriving, and my favorite band was Soggy Biscuit. Fast, fun, witty, hilarious and (mostly) acoustic. They primarily played covers. A lot of Pogues & punky renditions of folk songs. We went from fans of each other to friends quickly, and eventually band mates in “JonEmery & The Heartbroken”.  For the next four years, we would share dozens of bills together.  I turned them on to The Pine Box Boys, they turned me on to Fred Eaglesmith. 

Fast forward about 12 years. In short, I moved back to Sacramento due to a gall stone surgery gone horribly wrong. I started and fronted a few versions of “(The) Dry County Drinkers” and owned (and almost exclusively listened to) the entire Fred Eaglesmith discography. The final version of JE&DCD had tail spun. Drama and waning interest from the turnstile of members over the years had finally taken its toll.  In the midst of inevitable turmoil, the interest of re-branding and re-discovering myself as an artist was evident.  I had already started performing primarily solo, and booked strings of solo tours up and down the West Coast.  “I Like Trains” was in heavy rotation. 

Out of all of the Fred Eaglesmith songs, why “I Like Trains”?  It’s not his “best” or most “popular” song.  Artists big and small have performed and recorded “Time To Get a Gun” (Miranda Lambert), “Freight Train” (Alan Jackson, The All-Togethers) to most recently Caleb Caudle’s version of “Betty Oshawa”.  Reason I chose this song, was because of it’s simplicity.  It has a fun, dark story, catchy chorus, plus I love the E7 chord and it works with my vocal “style”. The chord progression inspired originals like “Old Glory 309” (Driftin To The Shoulder), “Ain’t What You Wanna Hear” (HeartBroke Motel), “I’m In Trouble” (Wrecked) and “Ballad Of Kitty Malone” (Driftin’ To The Shoulder). 

When recording “Americana” started, the original idea was just to release an EP. When word got out, a lot of fans, friends and family told me “you gotta record “Trains”!”  We didn’t have a lot of money or time, not to mention "I Like Trains" wasn't on the short list. I challenged my fans, friends and family to put their money where their mouths were, and started a GoFundMe to specifically add “I Like Trains”.  Not only did we meet our goal, but exceeded it. 

The pressure was on as the band hadn’t even rehearsed, or quite possibly, had never played the song before.  Dan Sisson (Dan the younger) and I got together and worked out the basic arrangements and brought it to the studio. Jim suggested the drum intros to the beginning and the middle. The rest, we just played.  A couple of takes and very little overdubs later, “I Like Trains” made the cut. Though my solo/acoustic rendition is a fun sing-a-long, it was THIS electric version that made it a fan favorite. 

Although brilliantly performed by the band “Way Out West”, the 1st time “Trains” was played electric was at a 2013 JE&DCD rehearsal with Dan McCullough (Dan the elder). We were just jamming, and I started playing “Trains”and Dan was grinding out some Neil Young/Crazy Horse guitar just for fun. I instantly fell in love with meshing the two Canadian artists together, and would perform that song, in that vain, almost every show. 

If you play Fred Eaglesmith’s original and the “Americana” version back to back, they are as different as different can be but, to this day, in the Sacramento Valley and a little beyond, “I Like Trains” is considered a JonEmery classic. So much so, when Fred Eaglesmith toured to California and performed at The Palms in Winters, 2018, and a bunch of us went.  When he started playing “Trains”, people turned their heads to me mouthing, “he’s playing your song!”.  That night I told him how much I appreciated him as an artist and what an influence he has been to me, and that I owed him streaming royalties from recording his song then handed him $50.  He chuckled and said “you don’t have to do that”.  Dreams do come true. 

Thanks for reading and thanks to John Becher in Peculiar, Missouri for requesting the story.

Leave a comment