For a songwriter, you don’t really go to songwriting school; you learn by listening to tunes. And you try to understand them and take them apart and see what they’re made of and wonder if you can make one too.
I listen to things and break a piece off of this, and a piece off of this, and I tie this to that, put these two together and then I take them out to meet the pieces coming down from the top and wrap it all in newspaper and set it on fire.
I’m not totally original. I draw from all kinds of sources and I listen to a lot of things … I would recommend that when you are starting out that you stay with your own stuff and find out who you are. And stay with you minding your own unique qualities and rather than trying to sound like somebody else . . . I mean you do start like somebody else and slowly you become [you] so it’s kinda like life, you know?
I think you have to work on yourself more than you work on the music. Then whatever you’re aiming at you’ll be able to hit between the eyes.
Tom Waits on Tom Waits: Interviews and Encounters (p.224, 284, 193)
You have to protect yourself. Most of us expect artists to do irresponsible things, to be out of control. Somehow we believe that if you’re way down there, you’re going to bring something back up for us, and we won’t have to make the trip. Go to hell with gasoline drawers on and bring me back some chicken chow mein while you’re at it.
Interviews And Encounters (p.249)
(you can find a lot of the interviews online at www.tomwaitsfan.com).