Welcome back to the UK, a sold out show tonight….I saw play here last year when you were promoting your latest album “ Cowgirl Boudoir “, and you’ve been a frequent visitor to these shores for many years. What do you particularly like about playing to a UK audience as opposed to those in the States?
Oh it’s always been very different playing here, especially for songwriters! I started coming over here and headlining the the Wembley festival 30 years ago, that hasn’t existed for a long time! There was probably a 10 year period in there where I didn’t come over very much, country was redefining itself then and during that time I turned more to songwriting. But your question was compared to the States…for songwriters especially, Nashville is sort of a moment in time for most artists, so for those who are in it for the long haul it tends to come and go…..as a writer I’ve had really great success there. Austin’s a music SCENE, Nashville’s a music TOWN and there is a songwriters circuit around the United States and I’ve done some of those but the US is big!! And there’s always been a great following over here for singer/songwriters as well as country music so between being both there’s always been a way for me to go. I think you’d find it’s been that way for Beth Nielsen Chapman, Nancy Griffiths, Guy Clark…..all of us have always had acceptance over here in a lot of ways that lends itself really well to performance.
Cowgirl Boudoir was your 16th studio album I believe….where do you find inspiration for all those songs of yours, and do you ever worry that you’ll run out of ideas?
No, it’s never been a problem with me! I’m just a real writer at heart, as long as the world’s turning I’ll have something to write about. I tend to write more from my feelings than my observations, there’s always a range of some sort of emotion, so I guess as long as I’m still breathing I’ll have something to write about! Then I just have to make it rhyme and put a melody to it and there you go!
So the words tend to come first for you?
Not necessarily, it’s actually harder for me to have a whole written piece and then put a melody to it, they kind of come in together really…if I have a piece of a melody words will just start to fall in and vice versa! For me the melody colours what the lyrics are saying.
The tracks on that album were 50/50 solo writes and co-writes……so I assume you enjoy both of those song writing processes for different reasons?
At that moment I had some particular things I wanted to say by myself, but my son Gabriel had also started writing and he was dragging me out saying “ write this with me!” …he’s very musical and I was enjoying writing with him, and then I met a guy in Austin, Johnny Goudie, a friend of Gabe’s he came out to interview me for his podcast…he gave me a record and I just fell in love with his voice and his quirky writing. I wanted to record one of his songs and have him sing it with me so we invited him over and we wrote some songs together. So I just sort of stumbled into all of that!
You’ve worked and recorded with many iconic country artists over the years, and had cuts by the likes of Trisha Yearwood, Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris….what’s it like the first time you hear your songs interpreted by other artists? Is it like giving away a child to be raised by someone else?
No, not at all, it’s very interesting, I can’t wait to hear what they do with it! Sometimes, even if their artistry or their voice is very different, they like what you do and kind of do that. When Trisha Yearwood recorded “ Hard Promises” she did it very similar to us ( apart from changing the arrangement a bit and shortening it for country radio) …I’d done it as a duet with Willie and she had him on background vocals! And then some people do a completely different thing….John Farnham from Australia did it and I hardly recognised it! I love it when people make the song their own. Some writers don’t like that or but I guess I’m really secure in the fact that I had my say with it. Song’s are like children as they’re yours and about how you felt but really the important thing about songwriting is it’s a communication, the ultimate compliment is when someone says “ I felt that too!”. One of my most successful songs is “ I Just Drove By”, and it’s because it has such a broad appeal.
Are there any contemporary country music artists who excite you and who you’d maybe like to work with?
You know I don’t really think about that very much, it just kind of happens! I don’t sit and think “ Mmm, I’d really like to work with them!” …I think more as a writer than I do as a singer/performer. I’m just not motivated in that way! I didn’t go to Emmylou, Waylon or Willie, they came to me! So I guess the answer to that question is it would be interesting if any of them came to me.
Do you listen to country radio much?
Not really, I’m not a big fan! In the States it’s just so commercial. Tho’ there’s a local station called Sun Radio in Austin that plays a lot of local, cool stuff. I like music that’s less manufactured and more creative.
What is your proudest moment of your career to date?
There have been so many moments although “ proud” probably isn’t the way I’d describe them as that means I caused them, ‘“grateful for” is better…..all my favourite moments have been things that just happened! I loved getting to write with Emmylou Harris, we wrote “ Love and Happiness For You” that we both now do at every show. I really loved recording with Willie Nelson and Grady Martin, and with Townes Van Zandt at Cowboy Jack’s ( Jack Clements ) studio in Nashville ….there’s a blog on my website about that!
As well as your recording and song writing you are involved in several other projects at the moment, just reading about them exhausts me! Can you tell me a bit more about some of these please?
Well I can kind of put it in a nutshell, my husband passed away five years ago, we had been together for 30 years making music. He had lost his voice to cancer and was a record producer, over the years I watched him re invent himself. So I had a lot to process, not just emotionally but physically. He was one of the founders of the Austin music scene, an important figure in the history of country music. I had to go through all these things to move forward, I had to get rid of things or use them! He had started writing a book called “Radio Dreams” so I’m now writing a dual memoir that’s going to be out next year ( on Feb 14th, he proposed to me on Feb 14th at Brown’s Diner in Nashville!). It tells OUR story as it fits into a period of time from the late 60’s to the end of the 80’s. The book is riding alongside another project I’ve been working on for several years, a documentary “ They Called Us Outlaws” about that period of time, it’s going to be presented by the Country Music Hall Of Fame next Spring together with an exhibit that’s going to be up for a couple of years. I also have a lot of reel to reel recordings and out takes, archival stuff that’s important and needs to be out there. I’m working with Bob Harris and his family, he loves to do documentaries and our story really works well and I’ve been here for the past couple of weeks with my book, reading to him while he took notes and chose songs with Miles, his son, and we’ve started this radio documentary that’s going to be a companion to a disc of my husband’s and my recordings, to go with the book! So I don’t know what else I could have, besides a major motion picture!
Well, I’ll look forwards to all of those projects! Meanwhile, have a great show tonight and thank you for your time!
Interview conducted by Lesley Hastings