Lyle Lovett discusses his new album and the Large Band
If you had one word to describe Grammy Award-winning musician Lyle Lovett, it would be generous. This talented singer-songwriter, best known for songs like “That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas),” “If I Had a Boat,” and “Cowboy Man” will bring his Large Band (yes, that is its name) with him when his tour stops in at the Ridgefield Playhouse for two nights, July 30-31. During an interview about these upcoming shows, Lyle spends most of his time talking about his fellow musicians whom he shares the stage with, making sure everyone gets ample time during a set, and says a great joy is working with these artists and letting audiences get to know them.
Andrea Valluzzo: What is your favorite aspect of touring and performing live?
Lyle Lovett: It is getting to work with the most talented musicians in the business and it’s a joy for me. That’s what it makes it really fun. It’s such a treat for us to be able to play a theater like the Ridgefield Playhouse. To be able to play such an intimate venue with a large band is great fun.
AV: How many are in the Large Band on this current tour?
LL: I’m counting in my head ... I think we are 13 on stage, including me. We have our four-piece horn section, Francine Reed is our singer and we have the rest of the rhythm section: trumpets, bass, piano, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, mandolin and fiddle.
AV: What can audiences expect?
LL: They can expect some songs from across my catalog and a few new songs that we have not recorded yet as well. And they can expect to hear the whole Large Band and variations of it.
AV: Do you go on stage with a fixed set list or do you wing it?
LL: Because of having that many people to organize on stage, I do more of a set list for the Large Band than I do for shows where I do a smaller configuration. With the Large Band, the horns need to know what’s coming up next and I try to organize the set such that people aren’t just stepping up and stepping down. Not every song has the same instrumentation so I am more like an air traffic controller. When I have people on stage, I’d like them to be there for several songs in a row before they step down so it makes sense from a logistical standpoint. My main objective, beyond the logistics, is by the end of the show, I want the audience to feel as though it’s gotten to know everyone on stage. I try to pick material that features everyone in a different way and gives everyone a chance to shine in his own way.
AV: You’re getting back into the studio in November to make a new album. It’s been a long time since your last record. What got you back?
LL: I met the folks at Verve Records and really liked them. My last recording [“Release Me”] was a fulfilment of my original recording deal that I signed in 1985 and that record came out in 2012 so I wanted to take my time and make sure I was working with people I would enjoy working with. I was not in a rush about getting a new record out so I thought I would take my time and be deliberate and methodical about making the right choice.
AV: Your upcoming album will be mostly original songs. What inspires your songwriting these days?
LL: What inspires my songwriting these days is what has always inspired my songwriting. My songs are observational and they come from my life. I’ve never written songs with any other objective other than to express my own point of view and so I still do that. I really write songs for myself and I rely on the idea that we are … all more similar than we are different and if I write something true about my own experience, then people will be able to see themselves in that. I believe that we as human beings are more connected than we are separated and we all look for the same basics in life: love and happiness.
AV: Who has been your biggest musical influence?
LL: That’s impossible to say. I grew up listening to so many different types of music and my parents’ record collection. It was across the spectrum. They had Ray Price records, Ray Charles records, Glenn Miller records and Buck Owens records so I listened to lots of different kinds of music. I grew up listening to country radio and pop radio. I’m a big fan of The Beatles, Rolling Stones, rock and roll, singer-songwriters like James Taylor, John Prine, Tom Waits and Randy Newman and great blues stylists like Bonnie Raitt. I think I was most influenced by narrative style songwriters that I could actually go see when they came through town — people like Guy Clark, Townes van Zandt, Willis Alan Ramsey, Steven Fromholz and Michael Murphy. Those were people I got to see up close so they had a tremendous impact on me.
AV: Final comment about the show?
LL: I’m grateful after all these years to still be able to do something that I love to do. Playing music is something I started out doing just for fun, I started playing clubs in 1976 when I was 18 years old and it’s incredible to me in 2019 I still get to do the thing that I love to do. I’m grateful to work with talented people and still have my job.