Lyle Lovett on the new album and how a house band from Phoenix changed his life

Lyle Lovett is on the phone from Texas to talk about his upcoming performance at the Mesa Arts Center in support of his first album in a decade, ’12th of June,’ the title of which refers to the day his twins were born in June 2017.

But first, he would like to talk about a city that has been dear to him for some time.

“You know, I wanted to talk to you because Phoenix has been such an important place to me,” he says.

“My first studio recordings were made at a small studio that no longer exists in Scottsdale called Chaton Recordings with Billy Williams, J. David Sloan and their band, the Rogues, who were Mr. Lucky’s house band at the time. era.”

The Rogues included several players who would become members of Lyle Lovett and his Large Band: Ray Herndon, Matt McKenzie, Matt Rollings.

“And through them I met Francine Reed, Steve Marsh, Bob Warren, Dan Tomlinson, people I’ve played with for years,” he says. “So Phoenix is ​​a very special place for me.”

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Mr. Lucky’s passing through Luxembourg

Lovett met Mr. Lucky’s group in Luxembourg.

Not really.

In 1978, he befriended a country singer named Buffalo Wayne after Buffalo Bill and John Wayne (his two favorite American cowboys) while traveling in Europe with a band. of Texas A&M students while taking German in a summer program.

Five years later, Buffalo Wayne invited him to play at the Schueberfouer, an annual fair in Luxembourg.

“One of the events that year was an American Musical Tent,” Lovett recalled.

“The owner of this event had gone to Mr. Lucky’s, loved J. David Sloan and the Rogues and hired them to come to Luxembourg.”

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How The Rogues Became Lyle Lovett’s Band

Lovett was there to play acoustic during set changes between the Rogues and an Orlando Top 40 cover band called Body and Soul.

“Well, Buffalo Wayne got fired at the start of the gig,” Lovett said. “And I was worried because I was doing all of this for a return plane ticket. And by then I had been granted a one-way plane ticket. So my return ticket was in jeopardy. .”

His act had gone fairly unnoticed.

“I could tell it wasn’t essential to the evening,” he laughs.

Lyle Lovett

So he explained his fate to Sloan and Williams.

“And they said, ‘Why don’t you sit down with us? We will learn your songs and play with you. Then, at the end of this agreement, you can say that you deserve your plane ticket home. “”

Besides saving the day, it opened Lovett’s eyes to what his songs could sound like with the right accompaniment.

“I had never heard my songs come to life the way J. David Sloan and the Rogues brought them to life,” Lovett says. “The way they played the songs, the arrangements, it was just uplifting to me.”

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Lyle Lovett records in Scottsdale

Before parting ways, Williams and Sloan offered Lovett a contract for studio time.

“They said, ‘If you ever want to try recording with us, we’ll give you the first day free,'” he says.

“So in June or May 1984, I called Billy Williams and said, ‘Is this offer still valid?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, man, get out.'”

They ended up recording four songs on that free day, and it became the first of several demos Lovett took to Nashville on a trip to add some harmonies to a record his friend Nanci Griffith was making.

“That summer of 1984, I kept coming back to Phoenix and working with Billy and the guys,” Lovett says.

“Our work day at Chaton was 10-4 because we had to stop so the guys could all get ready and go play Mr. Lucky’s in the evening,” says Lovett.

“And I would usually go there and sit in the sound booth. Sometimes I would sit with them. But it was a wonderful summer to come and go in Phoenix.”

By October 1984, they had recorded 18 songs.

“And this 18-song demo tape is the demo tape that I finally got my record deal with,” Lovett said.

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“They are like family to me”

Lovett has fond memories of his time in Arizona.

“I was introduced to the music community in Phoenix, which is so deep in ability and taste,” Lovett said.

“And it’s all down to meeting this group in Luxembourg. It’s a long way to get to Phoenix from Texas. It’s a lot shorter if you just go on I-10. “

The people he met during those formative years remained an important part of Lovett’s life.

“They are like family to me,” he says.

Williams went on to produce or co-produce several albums for Lovett, from 1987’s “Pontiac” to 2007’s “It’s Not Big, It’s Large.”

“Not only did he produce my early demos, but he let me stay at his house,” Lovett says of those early recordings with Williams.

“Billy lived near Mr. Lucky, and we went to the studio together every day across Glendale Avenue in Scottsdale. It was a really great education for me.”

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Francine Reed on Lovett’s latest album

He hopes Reed, who retired from touring during the pandemic, will be at the Mesa gig to join the band on stage.

“12th of June” includes three duets with Reed – “Straighten Up and Fly Right”, “Gee, Baby, Ain’t I Good to You” and “Peel Me a Grape”.

These first two songs have been part of the live show for several tours.

Lyle Lovett

“A few summers ago, I asked Francine if she would sing them with me to showcase her more on the live show,” Lovett said. “And because we had played them live, I thought it would be nice if people could have them on a recording as well.”

They did “Peel Me a Grape” to add another standard to the mix when they went back on tour.

“This record was supposed to come out two years ago,” says Lovett.

“But because of the pandemic isolation, everything stopped. And during that time, Francine decided to take a step back and not tour. I was hoping that she would do this tour, but I’m certainly happy that she does what she wants to do.”

“I wouldn’t record without Ray”

The album also features Herndon on guitar.

“I wouldn’t record without Ray,” says Lovett.

“You know, Ray could make a living as a session player if he wanted to. He would have to live somewhere like Nashville or Los Angeles or New York. But what appeals to me so much about the community there, it’s that someone as immensely talented as Ray Herndon chooses to live where he comes from, run the family business and uphold his family’s legacy. That’s where life is for Ray. And I admire that tremendously.

Writing songs for his family on June 12

Family is a major theme in the originals he wrote for “12th of June.”

“Well, most of those songs were given to me by my kids,” he says.

On the title track, Lovett, who turned 64 last year, addresses his new family in the context of his own mortality.

“To these two beautiful children and to my sweet and tender wife”, he sings. “I will love the three of you forever though I fly beyond this lifetime.”

Although the album was inspired by the birth of the twins, it took Lovett a year to come to terms with the events of the day.

Lyle Lovett

“The day they were born, everything was so procedural,” Lovett says.

“There were twice as many staff in the delivery room with the birth of twins. And I remember thinking, ‘This is not what I expected in terms of the emotional impact.’ It wasn’t a moment of reflection. It was a moment of, ‘Hey, we have things to do here.'”

Not every song inspired by the twins is as likely to inspire tears as “12th of June.” Take “The pants are overstated”.

As Lovett recalls, “It was really just an effort at 12 and 18 months to dress them up and get them to resist to the point that sometimes I would throw my arms up and think, ‘Maybe they’re right and I’ve it’s wrong, maybe we shouldn’t dress up.'”

The overwhelming nature of parenthood

The arrival of these twins had a major impact on the way Lovett looks at everything.

“I know I’m not the first person in the world to have a child,” he says.

“But when it happens to you, it’s all those things that you can’t anticipate, just in the best way. I’m just grateful that even at that age I was able to experience it. And ultimately, I hopes we can serve them well as they grow and be around long enough to be a positive influence on them.”

His friends teased him, Lovett says, about how having children would change his life, and he in turn insisted it wouldn’t.

“Of course it is,” he says.

“What my buddies didn’t say teasingly to me was, ‘It’s not changing your life in a way that you don’t want.’ Every change that happens to you is something you embrace and gladly accept.”

Don’t say this album is Lyle Lovett ‘returning to music’

It’s been 10 years since his previous release, 2012’s “Release Me,” but Lovett isn’t crazy about how this little detail was handled in the media.

“We just did a Saturday morning on CBS and it was called ‘…returns to music,'” he says.

Lyle Lovett

“With the exception of pandemic isolation, which has been a borderline devastating break, I’ve played over 100 dates a year since the start of my career, so I certainly haven’t taken a break from music. “

He took a long enough break to understand the business side of his career. “Release Me” was his last album on Lost Highway. This new album is his first on Verve.

“So much had changed between 1986, when my first record came out, and 2012, that I wanted to thoroughly research my options for releasing my next record and how I wanted to do business,” Lovett said.

He went with Verve in part because a young executive named Jamie Krentz gained his trust.

“The people you meet are so important in helping you feel confident enough to write something or making you feel like you should shut up,” Lovett says.

“I’ve been fortunate in my career to work with people like Billy Williams and J. David Sloan and Ray Herndon and Matt Rollings, who brought an enthusiasm to what I was doing and encouraged me to talk more than to close at the top.”

Lyle Lovett

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 16.

Where: Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St.

Admission: $40 to $60.

Details: 480-644-6500, mesaartscenter.com.

Contact the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-4495. Follow him on Twitter @EdMasley.

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