The American poet Miller Williams — father of alt-country singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams — passed away on January 1. In this interview with Paste Magazine, Lucinda Williams reflects on her father’s influence in her life and on her work. Not only did he encourage her to pursue music, his words inspired many of her songs.

Lucinda Williams clutched the receiver and hung on her father’s every word. Three years ago, the Grammy-winning, critically acclaimed songstress had dialed Miller Williams—her mentor, toughest critic and dad—for a bit of consolation after attending an old friend’s funeral. Miller’s words weren’t so much a comfort as an inspiration.

“He told me ‘a precious thing’s temporary nature just makes it more precious,’ and ‘the saddest joys are the richest ones,’” Lucinda recalls of the genius in her father’s offhand remarks. “It was so profound that I jotted it down and eventually wrote a song about it.”

That tune—aptly titled “Temporary Nature (Of Any Precious Thing)”—is featured on the second disc of Williams’ new double album, Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone. Over the song’s pensive guitar and church choir organ, Lucinda sings that impromptu mantra from her father, holding a quavering high note as she comes to the word “precious”—evoking the trembling grip of anyone who struggles to let go.

Read the full interview

For more on Lucinda Williams, read her memoir from Radio Silence, “Where the Spirit Meets the Bone”.