About once a week, singer-songwriter Robert Earl Keen drives from the Kerrville home he shares with his wife, Kathleen, and their two daughters to their five-hundred-acre ranch twenty miles up the road. It’s here that he writes in solitude in his scriptorium, a small limestone building with wooden doors salvaged from a jailhouse, a sparrow-filled chimney flue, and no television. “Out here it seems like you can tap into the creative energy you can’t get to when other people are around,” says the 56-year-old, who will often cook a pot of beans over a fire outside while he’s working on songs. A bookshelf in the corner is filled with titles like Cast-Iron Cooking for Dummies, works by John Cheever and E. E. Cummings, and a copy of Ulysses. “We’re all going to read it someday, right? I personally have gotten to about here,” he says, pinching thirty pages or so. This month Keen will be performing in Galveston at the Grand 1894 Opera House.
ABOUT THE ITEMS IN ROBERT EARL KEEN’S SCRIPTORIUM
• I’ve seen There Will Be Blood at least fifty times. This poster is just the tip of the iceberg. I had a replica of Daniel Plainview’s field office built right outside. It has no value whatsoever, but it makes me happy.
• This is the guitar that I play at home. It’s a Bill Collings guitar, from Austin. They make the best guitars in America. Every time I pick it up I go, “God, I love that.” Some people say Taylor is the best guitar, but I wouldn’t even bring a Taylor in this room.
• Chloe, our twelve-year-old, made this sandwich. I love sandwiches. They keep me from getting hungry. I can sit there at my desk and think I’m hungry, and then I go, “Oh, I have a sandwich.” And then I can sit there for another forty minutes or so. It reassures me that there is a sandwich sitting there waiting for me.
• The bowling pin is a Big Lebowski thing. We quote the lines of that movie all the time on the tour bus.
• This is my sixteen-year-old daughter Clara’s mini-Van. It’s a Van Gogh copy, but ’cause it’s so small it’s a mini-Van.
• That’s Kathleen and me on New Year’s Eve in 1994. We’ve been married 25 years. We met in Austin. Her friend brought her to see me play, and they were the only two people in the place. I was trying to impress them, and I soon realized that they were unimpressible.
• Kathleen bought this for me at Gibson’s Discount Center, in town, which is the best store in the world. They’ve got it all.
• I’ve put Big Red in a song or two, and I’ve drunk it for years. It’s my soda water of choice.
• Maui Jims are great sunglasses.
• Big Chief notepads are my go-to pad. You can’t always find them, but I get them at Gibson’s. It really is the best store.