With more than a dozen commercially and critically loved releases to his credit, Lyle Lovett makes his Metro Moncton debut at Casino New Brunswick on Wednesday evening. Considered to be one of the finest singer-songwriters of the last 30 years, Lovett has a knack for compelling and sometimes amusing story telling in his songs, which have helped earn him four Grammy Awards.
In an interview with The Times & Transcript from a stop in Oklahoma last week, Lovett expresses excitement at the prospect of venturing into territories like the Maritimes to perform for the first time.
“This is going to be our first time in Atlantic Canada,” Lovett says. “It is always exciting to get to places we haven’t been before. You can’t help but appreciate that I have been given the opportunity to do something I really love for a living. It is a blessing, really because I always wanted to play music and am enjoying it more than ever. I get to work with the best musicians and people in the world. It is a great feeling to get together with these guys and ride the highways of the world and play music.”
Lyle’s show at Casino NB will feature Lovett’s acoustic group, comprised of acclaimed drummer Russ Kunkel, bassist Victor Krauss, multi-instrumentalist Keith Sewell as well as Luke Bulla on fiddle. Asked how his live show changes given how many people are on stage with him, Lyle shares the changes are not nearly as drastic as some might expect.
“The one objective in any of my performances is that I want the audience feel as though they get to know the people on stage with me. I like picking the songs that will suit the strengths of the people that I have with me on any given tour. The acoustic shows are nice because the sound can be a little sparser but it also allows the musicians to be a little freer to expand their parts which I whole heartedly encourage.”
Although he was initially viewed and promoted as a country music artist, Lyle has made forays into big band, folk, gospel, blues and more. This has in turn earned him fans across those various genres.
Lyle credits Tony Brown, the man who signed him, Steve Earle and more to the MCA Record Label in the mid 1980’s as being a driving force behind ensuring that he was not viewed solely a “country” artist.
“Tony very much encouraged me to pursue the music that I wanted to. He was so very supportive of what I wanted to do. In addition to that though, he also played a big part in helping be more strategic with my music.”
Lyle says that in the time prior to having signed with MCA, he would venture to Nashville hoping to catch a break. Putting his music into the hands of those who might be able help him get a foothold in the music business became a routine of sorts.
On his first trip to Nashville, Lyle says that he asked for a meeting with Sam Ramage who, at the time, was working at CBS Songs where one of Lyle’s favourite songwriters, Guy Clark, was employed as a writer.
“I didn’t ever expect the meeting with Sam to happen but he agreed to sit down with me. I told him I was a big fan of Guy Clark’s work and asked him if he would play Guy my demo tape. I didn’t ever think it would happen but on subsequent visits to Nashville, I would be introduced to new people who said that they heard my songs from Guy Clark. I hadn’t even met Guy at that point in my life; he seemed like an untouchable character to me.
“It was actually Guy that brought me to the attention of Tony Brown at MCA. Tony was the kind of guy who thought outside of the Nashville box. Guy knew that Tony was liable to gravitate towards something that wouldn’t be typical of what you would hear in Nashville. I think that having Guy in my corner definitely gave me credibility with Tony. Without Guy’s influence, who knows where my career might have ended up?”
Lovett’s most recent album, Release Me, was released early last year. The release of the album is a milestone of sorts for the artist as it marked the final record he owed under his contractual obligations to his record label. All album title irony aside, Lovett says that his return to the ranks of being an independent artist is an exciting prospect.
“It is pretty exciting to be a free agent, so to speak but ultimately, I want to be thoughtful and do the right thing for my career. If I have the opportunity to make a record and go into business with someone, I will explore that possibility when it arises. Frankly, I haven’t decided what I want to do. Right now, I am just writing songs and trying to get enough of them to make a record. I have no intention of stopping.”
In a roundabout kind of way, Lyle’s career has come full circle. From hoping to get his music heard by Guy Clark in the earliest days of his career through sharing the stage with Clark and now joining his mentor in the ranks of being considered one of the preeminent Texan singer-songwriters, he expresses some genuine amazement at his career of the past three decades.
“To be mentioned in the same breath as Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt is just incredible,” he says. “I just feel so lucky that I was given the chance to know Townes and that I get to associate with Guy. I get to go sit around Guy’s house and watch him play guitar and learn from him. It is still something that I find very thrilling.”
Article published in the July 2, 2013 edition of the Times & Transcript