Instant gratification. It's a theme that runs through the life of country music star Hal Ketchum.
The 55-year-old with 15 Top 10 singles and 5 million albums sold recorded his most recent release, Father Time, in two days. Ketchum's friend Neil Diamond wrote in the album's liner notes, "I find it impossible to listen to it without smiling at the sheer exuberance of these tracks."
It's possible that early musical success made Ketchum comfortable with such a dynamic pace: When he hit the country music scene in 1991, his very first single, "Small Town Saturday Night," climbed to the No. 1 spot on the charts.
More likely, though, he's just wired that way. Take his work as an amateur painter: Ketchum insists on working in acrylics.
"I'm very impatient. I require quick drying," he says. "I sort of attack the canvas for three or four hours at a time. I try to get as much done as I can. It's not a very patient process, but the results are interesting."
Ketchum has also been dabbling in writing short stories, that is. A friend of his, Robert Hicks, asked him to contribute to A Guitar and a Pen, a collection of tales by country music songwriters. Compliments on his piece prompted Ketchum to keep writing and start a short-story collection of his own. He's working on about six or seven pieces right now.
"I kind of fly from one to another and then back," he says. "I kind of keep them all going at various stages."
In regard to technique, Ketchum says he approaches short stories in much the same way that he writes songs. (He wrote or co-wrote 13 of the 14 tracks on Father Time. The only song he didn't write is an old Tom Waits tune, "Jersey Girl.")
"I have no idea where it's going at any time. I have no preconceived notion of how it's going to end," he says. "A lot of times when I write songs, I don't write from a title, I don't write from a hook. An opening line visits me, and I just let the character sort of present itself."
Ketchum does slow down enough, though, to think about the world around him. For instance, he says he's had the opportunity to befriend people from various Native American tribes during his travels, and he feels strongly about the culture and its influence on this country.
"It's interesting and ironic to me, how we're returning to this green mentality and this environmental [focus]," he says. "[The Native Americans are] the original environmentalists. ... A lot of their decisions are made for the grandchildren's grandchildren. They really are by nature very holistic people. I'm really intrigued with that."
Intrigued enough to try to pass on that green ideal. The packaging for his newest record is made of recycled paper.
"Gotta take care of this whole Earth," he says.