Stephen King has been working with heartland rocker John Mellencamp for more than a decade on a southern gothic musical, and while he acknowledges that the musician has a lot of good ideas, he’s not afraid to call him out on the bad ones.
The duo might seem like an unlikely pair, but any fan of King’s knows how tied he is to the part of the country he hails from; most of his stories and novels take place somewhere near Maine, and a good chunk of his writing is dedicated to the surroundings of his characters. What shaped them, what influences them, where they’ll go. The same can be said of Mellencamp’s songwriting, and if you take a listen to “Rain On The Scarecrow”, you can get a feel for the haunting, dark edge he sometimes injects into his work. When he first came to King with the idea of partnering on a musical, the iconic writer admitted he didn’t know anything about it.
“In 2000, John pitched me this idea about ghosts in a cabin and a family related to them. Secrets, arguments, sibling rivalry. I said, ‘John, I don’t know anything about writing a musical.’ He said, ‘That would be the fun of it,'” King said.
So far, the production has been a huge hit after a 2012 debut. It’s currently on the road through December 6 and stars Gina Gershon and Billy Burke. But King says it’s been a long, hard road while trying to get the production off the ground.
“I don’t think either of us realized what an involved process making a play is. I think of it like the Russian politburo. You have to go through a lot of hoops to get funding. Certain union rules you have to follow — don’t ask me what they are,” he admitted.
As well as they work together, King says, there are still times when he has to step in when his friend gets rolling on an idea.
“John comes up with a lot of ideas: Two will be bullshit, three will be great. He’s dedicated, talented and strong-willed. But sometimes I have to say, ‘Let’s not do that.’ ”