Jim Lauderdale, Lilly Winwood
Sunday, Aug. 14, 6 p.m.
Callaghan’s Irish Social Club, 916 Charleston St., www.callaghansirishsocialclub.com
Tickets: $30, available at venue (limited to 50 tickets)
Callaghan’s and American Songwriter have collaborated to bring the legendary Jim Lauderdale to the OGD, with Lilly Winwood (daughter of Steve Winwood) opening.
As a young man, Lauderdale was inspired to pursue a music career through his love of figures such as Ralph Stanley and George Jones. Over the years, Lauderdale penned song after song in an effort to launch his own career. From country to rock to blues, no genre was off limits. Notables from Elvis Costello to the Dixie Chicks sought out Lauderdale for his songwriting talent, and he even got to collaborate with his hero, Stanley. Eventually Lauderdale stepped out of the publishing house and onto the stage with his own solo efforts.
Lauderdale’s latest release is a sonically versatile double album, “Soul Searching.” Recorded at iconic studios in Memphis and Nashville, “Soul Searching” wears two faces. Lagniappe was honored to spend time chatting with Lauderdale about his extensive career and his latest effort.
Stephen Centanni: Growing up, you found one of your muses in the late Ralph Stanley. Eventually your career led to some collaborative efforts with him. It’s one thing to meet your hero, and it’s another to get to perform with them. What was that experience like?
Jim Lauderdale: It was surreal, and it was the same with Robert Hunter, who I’ve written a lot with. My career got a late start, so it was blooming. There were so many years of trying to get things going on. When I got to work with guys like that and some like George Jones, it was too good to be true, almost. All of them were so nice. Now that you ask, it’s still hard to believe.
Centanni: About a decade ago, there was a movement in Nashville were songwriters started stepping out from the publishing houses and getting on stage to perform their own music. You did that way before it was cool.
Lauderdale: Well, I don’t know, Steve, I don’t know [chuckles]. Well, I may be. You know, it’s funny. I wanted to be a recording artist since I was in high school, starting with bluegrass. Then, finally, it happened with country. Then, I didn’t take up with my own stuff on country radio. Then, not by accident but I didn’t really expect it or envision it, people started recording my songs. That’s kinda how that happened. As people started recording my songs more and more, I still kept making albums. With major record things that I was doing in the ‘90s, it took so long for it to begin. When it finally did, there were lapses between albums. I was trying to make up for lost time up to my early 30s when this stuff finally started happening. I used to compare myself a lot to The Beatles. I would be like, “Gosh, The Beatles have broken up, and I haven’t even made a record yet.” Bob Dylan was making records in his early 20s. I kept comparing myself to other people, and I’m finally making more peace with that.
Centanni: “Soul Searching” is your latest release, and it’s a double album. You recorded one at Royal Studio in Memphis and one at the RCA Victor Studio A in Nashville, which was recently saved from demolition. Where did you get the idea to record in two different studios for this release?
Lauderdale: That was mostly due to the common thread of having Luther and Cody Dickinson on both albums. I had recorded with them a few years earlier in Mississippi at their dad’s studio, called Zebra Ranch. I enjoyed working with them so much. I was just hoping there would come another opportunity. I actually started the one at Studio A in Nashville and got this band together. Luther helped me, and he really wanted Jack White’s bass player, Dominic Davis. I had never worked with him. I really liked this keyboard player Ian Fitchuk, who I met through Buddy Miller. So, we were kinda in full-swing on that record.
Then Luther said, “Hey, you know, we started a couple of things in Mississippi. It’s some soul things. You really need to record at Royal Studio.” I was thinking at the time, “Oh brother! I’m right in the middle of this I’m trying to finish writing and recording this Nashville record. This is gonna be too much to take.” I went ahead and booked the time in Memphis. Once I went to Memphis, I really didn’t have the songs together, but I got there the day before, after taking this red-eye flight from California after this festival in Monterey. Things started coming together. I get a lot of inspiration out of recording in historical places like Studio A and Royal. I could just feel the magical vibe. I think that helped a lot.
I was really nervous at first working with the Hodges Brothers. Charles played organ and Leroy played bass. Once we did the first song, it was okay. On one side, I was able to communicate properly what I was hearing at certain parts. With the horn players, it was like when I’m doing country records, and I’ll sing the parts I’m hearing to the Tele [Telecaster] player or pedal steel player. The horn players were real receptive to that. At first, I was hesitant. I didn’t want them to think I was pushy, but they liked it that I had song ideas and hearing the parts that I wanted played.
Centanni: One thing I really dig about these two albums is there are two different personalities that reflect the cities. The “Nashville” album leans toward rootsy Americana rock, and the “Memphis” album leans toward soul. Were those from your catalog or a result of that studio vibe you were talking about?
Lauderdale: When I started the Nashville one, I think I had six of those songs basically done. There again, I ran into Luther Dickinson in this park, and I was out exercising. I saw Luther, and he was with his family and said he had just moved to town the day before. I thought, “Hmm.” I had time booked at Studio A on Tuesday, and I was planning on going in there and doing a follow-up album to my country album that I did called “I’m a Song.” … So it was a happy accident, and I was feeling Luther out. I said, “Hey, I have a session this Tuesday. I was gonna do a country record, but maybe you can do a song or two.” By the end of the conversation, I didn’t know what I was gonna do. I wanted to think about the potential players. Then I went back home and started looking through my stuff. Luckily I had these six songs already started. A couple of them might’ve been finished. I thought, “Well, if I go in with these guys, it’ll work. It’s not gonna be a country record anymore.” Some of it’s country-tinged. It went so well that I asked what the next available time was. I just really worked hard and came up with the other seven. Then I went back in.
A lot of times in the studio, like with the “Memphis Record,” I’m still writing as we’re recording. I’ll hear a playback during a break and work up another melody to get it together enough to lay it down. That’s kinda what happened when Luther, Cody and I went into it in Mississippi. Luther laughs at me, because I’ll have a composition on the music stand and the vocal booth with the title of the song on a blank page. When I first recorded with Luther, I was embarrassed about that. Of course, you know his dad, Jim Dickinson, was a great producer. He said, “It’s like dad always used to say: Necessity is the mother of invention.” That’s why I like Luther. He helps me relax. To me, he is one of the best guitarists out there, and I think Cody as a drummer is one of the best. Those guys can come up with something so fresh. So, it’s working with great guys like that.
Centanni: You’ve pretty much done everything there is to do in the modern music world. You’ve just got such an extensive and diverse legacy. What more can you do? What’s your next goal?
Lauderdale: Well, I’d like to write more with Robert Hunter. We’ve written about 100 songs, and I’ve put them out on six albums of our collaborations. Some of them are acoustic, and some of them are country. Some of them are blues rock. I’d like to continue that.