“I was like, ‘I don’t want to do this in front of a computer or in my house,’ ” the country-soul singer-songwriter says. “‘I want to go outside to do this.’”
That’s the way his mind works — when you’re about to field a bunch of questions, you might as well go somewhere you’ll feel free enough to do your best thinking.
Musically, too, Lewis is always chasing the right feel. He recorded his latest album, Waiting On You (which he celebrates with a record release show tonight at The 5 Spot), with Oliver Wood, whose own singularly groove-driven roots-pop outfit the Wood Brothers shares a bassist with the world-class jazz fusion trio Medeski, Martin & Wood. That would be Oliver’s brother Chris Wood, who Oliver offered to hire for the Waiting sessions.
“I said, ‘Man, that’s fucking great,’ ” Lewis recalls sheepishly. “ ‘However, I’ve already got a guy, and I love my guy, and my guy has to be on the project.’ And that’s J.T. Cure. ... I told a couple people that and they were like, ‘I don’t know anybody that’s ever turned down Chris Wood.’ Well I didn’t turn him down. I just pretended that I didn’t hear what Oliver said.”
Lewis didn’t take for granted the fact that his band — rounded out by master picker Kenny Vaughan and drummer Derek Mixon — had already dialed in a supple, sauntering sound. It’s hard to imagine a combo better suited to Lewis’s singing. During his half-dozen years in Nashville, he’s perfected his mellow, woolen tone and casually virtuosic phrasing, and done it at his own, freewheeling pace. He talks with the Scene about that and more after the jump.
"I used to have a long ponytail, to the waist," he says. "Whenever I'd go into those clubs, everybody would look at me like, 'What the ... ?!' They don't know I'm Japanese. I might look like an American Indian, Laotian. With a ponytail. In a cowboy bar.
"But every time I sit in and play music, those guys who sit at the counter and look at me like that, go, 'Come here, man. What do you want to drink?' "
Yukon Blonde and Whisperer open tonight's show, which costs $12.50-$15 (tickets available here) and kicks off at 9 p.m. Check out the Q&A below, along with a pair of tracks from the album after the jump.
I know Foo Fighters have played SXSW before, but have you ever had the South by experience of having to hustle from gig to gig and all that?
Yeah [sighs], I was briefly in this band called The Fire Theft about 12 years ago [that played SXSW], and I always laugh about that show because — I guess it’s probably pretty typical for bands go play there — but we played and outdoor volleyball court outside of a bar. So we set up at one end of it and the audience is just standing in the sand in the middle of the day [laughs]. It’s the worst environment to play music in, honestly. But I guess that’s what makes it an interesting event — it’s done in these herky venues.
You've got some new stuff you're getting ready to put out, and you said it feels a little different because [Bleed the Pigs is getting] more attention than before. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Yeah, before, when we started the band, I just wanted to play heavy music. I didn't really expect anyone to pay attention and listen. But it kind of took off right away, really fast, thanks to Tumblr; that's where a lot of our fans come from. And then we got in Spin. And now, it's like the entire world is looking and judging. At the end of the day, if I like it, there's nothing you can say about that — I like listening to it. But still, there's people you want to like it. It's a little scary, but I think it's some of our best stuff. I think we've grown, and we're trying new things.
I spoke with Crenshaw, who now lives in Dutchess County, New York, on a wintry day late last month for this feature in this week’s Scene. Now check out my full Q&A with the pop-rock master, where we touch on his time recording in Nashville with Bill Lloyd and Brad Jones at Alex the Great, his new crowd-funded series of EPs, his hatred for the term "power pop," the brilliance of British freakbeat pioneers The Move and more.
Back in your Warner Bros. and MCA days, ‘80s and ‘90s, did you play Nashville a lot?
Lemme see, it’s kind of a sad saga, I guess. I played Exit/In when La Bamba was out. That would’ve been 1987. It was, you know, jammed wall-to-wall, like a real blowout. But I can’t think of any other gigs in Nashville that have been likewise. At the [2011 Basement] gig, it was nobody there, and it was just, like, strange. [Nashville's] not a stop on my usual touring map. It’s just kind of fallen off that map. I go to other places instead. I’m really happy we’re coming to the City Winery. I’m glad they gave us a shot — we’ve had sold-out shows all the other City Winerys around the country. So we’ll see, we’ll try our luck in Nashville.
Considering McPherson cut his first album, Signs & Signifiers, in the attic studio of his upright bassist Jimmy Sutton — where with period-perfect specificity of their microphone-placement techniques the pair strived to capture the same rhythmic attack Cosimo Matassa achieved in his New Orleans studio J&M in the 1950s — McPherson could be reasonably sure the early rock purists in his native scene would appreciate his attention to detail. But the real surprise is how much the 30-something Oklahoman gets off on warping the form with weird ideas and a cannily wild attack. Good Times is McPherson's second album and his first since becoming a major draw in a roots scene where high-fidelity faithfulness to old-school technology matters less than flashes of originality.
In advance of his appearance at Mercy Lounge tonight, which has NOT been canceled, McPherson talks to the Cream about playing for purists, writing with Eric Church, getting experimental and a whole lot more. Check it out after the jump.
On Friday night at 3rd & Lindsley, in what will undoubtedly be one of the jazz events of the year, Liebman, who has had a thriving career in the ensuing years, will join a crack band of Nashville jazz all-stars — saxophonist Jeff Coffin, guitarist James DaSilva, drummer Chester Thompson, keyboardist Chris Walters and bassist Victor Wooten — to re-create the music from On the Corner. Liebman says they’ll probably throw in a couple of other tunes from that era of Davis’ career too. This is likely to be one of the funkiest throw-downs the city has ever seen, and is not to be missed.
Below, the entire phone interview with Liebman, who discusses his experiences playing on the album and touring with Davis, the early ’70s jazz collective Free Life Communication, and his thoughts on the future of jazz.
Tell me about the Free Life Communication.
It was a group of us, some quite well known. Michael and Randy Brecker, Bob Moses, Al Foster, Gene Perla, Lenny White. We just gravitated to the New York loft scene. In that time you could own a loft, which meant an industrial building or space that was renovated in some way. You could play, you could paint, or do photography type stuff. It wasn't the kind of economic situation there is now, and it was affordable.
I was watching your Grammy-nominated performance of "Statesboro Blues" with Taj Mahal, and I AB'ed it with the 1971 At the Fillmore East version. Your voice pretty much sounds the same today as it sounded in 1971. That's partially because your voice is in good shape these days, but it's also partially that in 1971 you sounded like a 50-year-old bluesman, even though you were 23 years old. In fact, what blows me away about At the Fillmore East isn't just what a great album it is, but that you guys were in your early 20s. Why do you think that was? How did you all have that kind of musical maturity at such an early age?
I suppose it's because we studied that kind of music. We grew up with it, we lived it. That's the only kind of music we knew, or that we wanted to play.
Maybe there was something unique about the late 1960s and early ’70s that caused musicians to grow so quickly, like The Stones, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and you guys. You all were in your early 20s, but sounded like fully formed musicians.
Fully formed? (Laughs)
It sounded like it. You had evolved and found your style at a very early age.
That we did.
Yesterday, I posted my Q&A with Keys frontman Dan Auerbach. And today, as promised, here's my chat (an abridged version of which appears in print) with Keys drummer Patrick Carney.
I caught Carney at his home studio deep in the maze of mansions that is Forrest Hills. On a rare day off from road, the analytical and opinionated drummer was in relaxed mood and happy to wax at length about how, despite going from indie-rock stardom to arena-rock stardom, he still identifies as an indie-rocker; how he doesn't know exactly how or why The Black Keys made it, but that he wishes many of his favorite, equally deserving rock bands — including locals like Turbo Fruits and Bully — could also enjoy such success. He also talks about the pressures of performing on live television; what its like to have his tweets go viral; what's really wrong with Spotify; how growing up in a struggling city like Akron, Ohio makes him appreciate living in boom town New Nashville and more.
Nashville is a town of music geeks.
Yeah, totally, in a good way.
Below, check out my Q&A (an abridged version of which appears in print) with Keys singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach. Kicking back in his antique-adorned 8th Ave. studio, Easy Eye Sound — where the 2013 Producer of the Year Grammy winner helmed such records as Dr. John’s Locked Down, Lana Del Rey’s Ultraviolence and JEFF the Brotherhood’s Hypnotic Nights — Auerbach gets to the point on topics ranging from life in Nashville,to the benefits of licensing songs for commercials, bro-ing down with Robert Plant, adjusting to arena-rock success and more. He also hints at cutting a follow-up to his excellent 2009 solo record, Keep It Hid.
And tune in tomorrow to read our Q&A with Auerbach's bandmate, drummer Patrick Carney.
Do you think it's better for the band to have come up the way it did, gradually from the indie world?
Absolutely it was better. However, we didn't do it on purpose. There's no way you could plan a career like ours; we just kind of stumbled into it.
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