Post-Crescent Media: 10 Nuggets Of Wisdom From An Introspective John Mellencamp

Ed Berthiaume, Post-Crescent Media

Being John Mellencamp can be a bit of a contradiction.

And that's part of the fun.

He launched his career as the pop-savvy John Cougar and then spent the rest of his career making up for it.

He's a rock star who sings about family farms.

He's a heartland rocker who lives in Bloomington, Indiana, while dating and sometimes marrying New York models and Hollywood movie stars.

He's a singer in the public eye who'd rather paint in solitude.

He's released 22 full-length studio albums, sold more than 40 million records and has seen 22 songs chart in the Billboard Top 40, and isn't shy to tell interviewers that a lot of it was crap.

Mellencamp launched an 80-city tour last month behind his latest album, "Plain Spoken," released in the fall. That tour stops at Green Bay's Weidner Center Monday.

Mellencamp wasn't available for an interview, but some recent interviews he's done and reviews from early stops on his new tour paint a picture of an artist comfortable in his own shoes, worn and ragged as they might be.

"The show-opening 'Lawless Times,' 'Troubled Man' and especially 'The Isolation of Mister' spotlight a poet who wisely used the years between youth and his 60s — Mellencamp is now 63 — to become the absolute master of songwriting," writes Cleveland Plain Dealer reviewer Chuck Yarborough following Saturday's concert in Cleveland.

Mellencamp's songs have spanned the years from 1978's "I Need a Lover" to the more recent offerings that won't be found on pop radio but are close to the heart of the introspective songwriter. In between there are plenty of fan favorites, from "Jack and Diane," "Authority Song" and "Small Town" to "Lonely Ol' Night," "Pop Singer" and "Jackie Brown."

In recent interviews, Mellencamp comes across as insightful, philosophical and a tad cranky. We've sorted through a few of our favorites to help get you in the mood for Monday's concert.

In wide-ranging chats last year with Esquire, Men's Health and "The Howard Stern Show," Mellencamp broached topics ranging from his early music to the pitfalls of success to living with regret.

Here, then, are 10 nuggets of wisdom from the mouth of Mellencamp.

1. On his music maturing: "As early as '88 I wrote a song called 'Pop Singer,' and, man, did I catch shit for that. But I was still a kid. … You'll find out that you get to be a certain age and it's like, 'This stuff just doesn't interest me anymore.' I mean, I can't even imagine writing a song like 'Hurts So Good.' I don't even know who that guy was who wrote that song." (Esquire)

2. On his inspirations: "I'm trying to write for people my age. And my inspiration over the years has changed dramatically. From being 22, 23 years old, my inspiration was the Rolling Stones. Now my inspiration is John Steinbeck, Tennessee Williams, Faulkner, Shakespeare. It has nothing to do with what I started out to do." (Esquire)

3. On living with regret: "People spend their entire lives regretting what they didn't do and what they should've done. Hey, man, you did what you did." (Men's Health)

4. On success: "We all want the world to turn on our timetable but it just doesn't. Once you get that in your head, then success becomes less important and failure becomes not important. So be prepared to be disappointed, but also be prepared to be gracious when it does happen. I've been to the top of the hill, and there's nothing up there." (Men's Health)

5. On advice he gives his teenage sons: "I don't give a (bleep) what everybody else is doing. I don't care. What do we care? I spent my entire life trying not to be like everybody else." (Esquire)

6. On bouncing back from failure: "I think Bob Dylan said, without failure there's not success. He's right. You've gotta fail. Look at all the records I've made. I've made like 27 albums. I had about 10 good albums. C'mon, the rest of them … I mean, I made some songs that weren't exactly that great. … So when a person has their heart in it and they really believe it, (bleep), you can't quit. You can't ever quit. There's no quitting. This is life. Life will quit on you soon enough." (Esquire)

7. On the false promise of stardom: "Do you know what the average life expectancy is for a guy in a rock band? Forty-eight. People think if they're successful and they sell a bunch of records they're going to be happy. But of course they're not happy, they're going to fill that void, so they have the luxury and people allow them to do drugs and alcohol freely and they provide it for them. And they die. It's not a good plan. And you're a sucker if you buy into it." (Men's Health)

8. On his relationships, which included three divorces and last year's breakup with actress Meg Ryan after three years of dating: "(They) always started out good. You have the laughter and then you have the tears." (The Howard Stern Show)

9. On still learning about relationships at age 63: "I've been making records since I was 22 and done things my way, and it's hard for me to compromise. And, of course, to have a successful relationship one has to compromise. Sometimes I'm not good at it. I used to say, nobody's the boss of me, not even me. But I'm learning. I'm learning how to be a partner and it's kind of fun actually to learn something new at my age." (Men's Health)

10. On his 30-year commitment to Farm Aid with Willie Nelson and Neil Young: "I was a kid when I started this thing (in 1985). Willie was a kid when we started all this. I am more proud of Neil Young than I am of myself. I am more proud of Willie Nelson than I am of myself for Farm Aid because I know what these guys have done. You don't know, but I know. I'm so proud of them that if I think about them enough my eyes tear up." (Men's Health)