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'It's the songs that last'

When it comes to fairytale career breaks, they don't come much more Cinderella than Kris Kristofferson's. While working as a janitor at Columbia Studios in Nashville in the mid-1960s the budding songwriter found himself invited to a recording session by Johnny Cash. Cash put Kristofferson on the map by recording his songs, including Sunday Morning Coming Down, which won the Country Music Association's Song Of The Year in 1970.

"If it wasn't for Johnny's kindness, I certainly wouldn't have had the career that I did," says the 74-year-old Kristofferson. "He didn't have to take me into the studio like that, and he even made sure that the bosses there understood that it was his choice. It wasn't just some kid bugging him about songwriting. Even through the years that I played with Johnny, he was always larger-than-life to me."

He graduated with a BPhil in English literature in 1960 but by the time Kristofferson returned from five years with the US Army as a helicopter pilot where he achieved the rank of captain, he was ready to embrace music full-time, despite the offer of a post as a professor of English Literature at the West Point US military academy.

It was a decision that saw Kristofferson's parents practically disown him and resulted in the break-up of his first marriage, to childhood sweetheart Fran Beer.

After a few barren years the hits started coming including Help Me Make It Through The Night, Me & Bobby McGee, For The Good Times and the aforementioned Sunday Morning Coming Down.

Kristofferson -- who was inducted to the Country Music Hall Of Fame in 2004 -- released the critically acclaimed This Old Road in 2006 and Closer To The Bone in 2009. Next month Kristofferson leaves the quiet life he leads in Hawaii behind to tour Ireland.

KK: No, it wasn't [laughs]. My mother disowned me, as a matter of fact, and my wife just couldn't take it either, so, good God, it was a tough path to take. But I was never, ever doubtful about it, and once I was there, even though I wasn't selling any songs for four or five years, I always felt that I was doing the right thing.

PB: Do you enjoy the fame side of this, or do you prefer to stay under the radar?