Some good stuff buried in an interview Debiak did with Decoy Music, especially relating to the story behind his new album.

Leading into that, do you want to talk about the story for The Pride of Chester James?

I can’t really talk about that easily. Sometime in the late 90’s I went to a fair with my friends. We passed by a tent with a sign that read, “World’s Smallest People” . We thought it would be funny to see but we were wrong. The inside was all white and dirty and sitting inside a small squared off area were a couple of two foot tall African Americans. One of them was a man who played a small banjo and the other was a woman who was singing. Both of them looked tired and disheveled. We stayed there for only a few minutes but what I saw stayed with me for a long time. I started to write about it many years later. There was a period of time when it was all I could think about. I decided to write songs about how their journey through this world might have been. I just got in this zone where all the songs were written in a week. I cam up with this whole scenario and story that would be cool to share.

I named them Anna and Chester James. I assumed they must have been brother and sister. Early in there lives I imagined them to be very spiritual. Singing and playing music was how they passed their time. Years later they heard the Circus was passing through town and they were very eager to audition for it. When they arrived, they met with Mr. Coughlin, the owner of the Circus who immediately took them under his wing.

Months went by and the circus proved to be anything but good to them. It wasn’t long before Mr. Coughlin began to show his true colors. He was a mean spirited drunk who would often take advantage of Anna. Chester began drinking heavily and both of them lost there way with God. They were mocked and laughed at by the people and the rigors of traveling and playing every night took their toll.

One night Chester stirred from his sleep and saw that Anna had not come back so he went looking for her. What he found was a beaten and scared Anna lying outside a tent near the woods. She told him what had happened. Mr. Coughlin had taken advantage of her yet again, before he passed out drunk, and this time he went too far. Chester left her there for a moment as he went off to set fire to all of the tents in the Circus as everyone slept. He went back for Anna and carried her away, letting the circus burn to the ground behind them.

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Nathan Martin

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