Track of the Day: 'Never Again'

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Everyone always talks about how being intoxicated is a boon to creativity. That tough language exam, passed more easily with a booze-loosened tongue; that extra 1000 words of writing, jammed out in a whirl of key strokes after a couple glasses of wine. I’ve always been skeptical; no matter what college seniors and xkcd say, it seems to me that substance use is a straightforward path to stupidity.

Not so, says Sam Lewis, a Nashville artist who performed at Music City Roots in Franklin, Tennessee, last week. “I was coming off of mushrooms about two and a half years ago,” he explained in the middle of his set,

... And I was hanging out with a real good friend of mine, a neighbor at the time, and I had gone on a physical trip prior to that one, a few days before, and he had asked me where I'd been and I told him, as best as I could, where I had gone, before where I was then, which I'm still trying to figure out, where I was at that time, where I was when I was telling him... You following me, right?

Lewis, with his Avett Brothers-style beard and mountain-man hair, easily pulled off this straight-faced joke in a room full of Tennessee grandmas. Props. He continued:

Well I must have said something, because he told me I needed to write that down. And he had to teach me how to write again all over, but we got it down. Found it a couple of weeks later in a pair of jeans. And I had to look at it, the piece of paper, in the mirror, because it was, of course, written backwards. But I had some words on it, and I had been digging pretty hard on Willie Nelson's ‘Red-Headed Stranger’ at the time, and this is what came out the other side.

For a song that was almost lost to the laundry, “Never Again” is impressive. And Lewis might be messing around, anyways—it’s not nearly as trippy as you might think.