Don Lee’s newest novel Lonesome Lies Before Us is a tale of heartbreak and longing, brought to life by the lyrics of singer-songwriter Will Johnson. You can watch the video for the title track, performed by Johnson, exclusively here at Paste.
Fellow authors have called the book “a kind of allegory for the faded dream of America itself” and compared it to “a great country song” that “overflows with the sadness and sweetness of real life.” Main character Yadin Park is an alt-country artist whose lack of stage presence and homely looks take a toll on his career. A progressive hearing disorder only worsens the situation, leaving him with feelings of emptiness and frustration as he tries to cope with his fate and salvage what he can of his musical abilities to make one last record. The universality of the themes of the story and its accompanying musical element make the novel relatable not just to musicians, but to everyone who has found themselves yearning for something greater.
Lee’s first spark of inspiration came after learning that Ryan Adams feared he would have to quit music after being diagnosed with Ménière’s disease, a hearing disorder that causes vertigo and hearing loss. “For the book, I had a singer-songwriter who’s losing his hearing, wanting to self-release one last album,” Lee elaborates. “I wrote some lyrics for a few songs to put in the novel, yet they were awful. Truly awful. I knew I needed professional help.” Enter Johnson, a seasoned musician with the industry and writing experience Lee needed.
“He already had some placeholder lyrics, many of which I thought resonated quite well,” says Johnson. “I connected quickly with the narrative and solitary tone, particularly within the context of Yadin’s character, and that was an exciting thing.” Johnson’s connection with the character helps bring Yadin to life, giving his trials and tribulations a realistic touch.
Watch the video for the title track above. Lonesome Lies Before Us will be available for purchase on June 6—you can preorder the novel here. Johnson’s latest album, Hatteras Night, A Good Luck Charm, can be streamed and purchased here, and his tour dates, as well as a Paste live session, can be found below.
Will Johnson Tour Dates
01 — St. Louis, Mo. @ Off Broadway
02 — Indianapolis, Ind. @ White Rabbit Cabaret
03 — Cleveland, Ohio @ Beachland Tavern
04 — Washington, D.C. @ Rock and Roll Hotel
07 — New York City, N.Y. @ Bowery Ballroom
08 — Boston. Mass. @ The Sinclair
09 — Montreal, Quebec @ Bar Le Ritz
10 — Toronto, Ontario @ Velvet Underground
13 — Ann Arbor, Mich. @ The Ark
14 — Chicago, Ill. @ Thalia Hall
15 — Milwaukee, Wis. @ Boswell Book Company Milwaukee with Don Lee
16 — St. Paul, Minn. @ Turf Club
17 — Maquoketa, Iowa @ Codfish Hollow Barnstormers
29 — Denton, Texas @ Dan’s Silverleaf
10 — Austin, Texas @ Mohawk
11 — Dallas, Texas @ Kessler Theater
12 — Denton, Texas @ Dan’s Silverleaf