13 Tom Waits Quotes That Are as True Now as They Were Then

Thomas Alan Waits (born December 7, 1949) is an American musician, composer, songwriter, and actor. Waits’ lyrics most often hone in on the outliers and folks that hang out on the further reaches of society, while he delivers his words with an unmistakably gravelly tone. Waits first started up in the folk scene back in the 1970s, but then his music from the 1980s onwards aimed to reflect the influence of such distinctly different genres like rock, opera, Delta blues, vaudeville, cabaret, funk, and hip hop. Waits really knew how to spin a yarn with his stories told through his songs, and we’re going to take a look at some of our favorite quotes from the man himself.

1. On telling the truth

Tom Waits drinking coffee on talk show.
Tom Waits/Via YouTube.com

“Most people don’t care if you’re telling them the truth or if you’re telling them a lie, as long as they’re entertained by it. You find that out really fast.”

2. On overindulgence

Tom Waits in a hat explaining something.
Tom Waits/Via YouTube.com

“We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness.”

3. On imagination

Tom Waits on Letterman with George Clooney.
Tom Waits/Via YouTube.com

“My reality needs imagination like a bulb needs a socket. My imagination needs reality like a blind man needs a cane.”

4. On music from other generations

Tom Waits old music video.
Tom Waits/Via YouTube.com

“I didn’t really identify with the music of my own generation, but I was very curious about the music of others.”

5. On writing songs

Tom Waits staring off into the distance on talk show.
Tom Waits/Via YouTube.com

“Writing songs is like capturing birds without killing them. Sometimes you end up with nothing but a mouthful of feathers.”

6. On music loving you back

Tom Waits looking at interviewer.
Tom Waits/Via YouTube.com

“What you want is for music to love you back. That’s why you pay your dues. You want to feel like you belong are part of this symbiosis, metamorphosis, whatever you want to call it.”

7. On aging perspective

Tom Waits performing in a nice hat.
Tom Waits/Via YouTube.com

“When I was younger, I wanted to be older. Now I am older, I am not quite so sure.”

8. On writing

Tom Waits with face in hand.
Tom Waits/Via YouTube.com

“If you’re a writer, you know that the stories don’t come to you. You have to go looking for them. The old men in the lobby. That’s where the stories were.”

9. On moving forward

Tom Waits looking away from Letterman.
Tom Waits/Via YouTube.com

“Don’t look back, because someone might be gaining on you.”

10. On bacon’s musical talents

Tom Waits talking passionately to Letterman.
Tom Waits/Via YouTube.com

“If you record the sound of bacon in a frying pan and play it back, it sounds like the pops and cracks on an old 33 1/3 recording. Almost exactly like that. You could substitute it for that sound.”

11. On opening for Frank Zappa

Tom Waits close-up image on a late night talk show.
Tom Waits/Via YouTube.com

“My first big gig was an opening show for Frank Zappa, and I think that was difficult.”

12. On letting go of your bad days

Tom Waits making Letterman laugh.
Tom Waits/Via YouTube.com

“Don’t plant your bad days. They grow into weeks. The weeks grow into months. Before you know it, you got yourself a bad year. Take it from me. Chose those little bad days. Choke them down to nothing.”

13. On Ray Charles

Tom Waits looking up while whistling.
Tom Waits/Via YouTube.com

“I knelt at the altar of Ray Charles for years. I worked at a restaurant, and that’s all there was on the jukebox.”

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