Like Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams is one of the few country artists to fully cross over into the mainstream. Her latest album, Little Honey, has everyone falling in love with her all over again. Like Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams is one of the few country artists to fully cross over into the mainstream. Her latest album, Little Honey, has everyone falling in love with her all over again.
You’ve said this is the most eclectic album you’ve made. How so?
Well, all my albums have had a little bit of this, a little bit of that. But it seems like people are responding to this album in a way that they haven’t since the Car Wheels one, and I think that’s because I have more straight ahead country songs on there. With Little Honey, it’s like I’ve come full circle; I kind of see it as the best of everything, as far as styles go. It’s got blues, country and rock.
Some of these songs, like “Circles and X’s” and “If Wishes Were Horses,” you started writing 20 years ago.
And then “Well Well Well” was actually on a demo I had done when I was getting ready to do Sweet Old World. It goes back to ‘91. I don’t throw anything away, I keep everything. So when I’m writing I can go back and look at stuff that I did a long time ago. I was also inspired by Laura Cantrell. When she put her last record out, Hummingbird, somehow she got a hold of this real old song of mine called “Letters” that had never been out on anything. And sometimes when I run into really old friends of mine, from when I used to play like in Austin, Texas, they ask me about these early songs, from when I was in my twenties. People still remember those songs, and really like them. So I started thinking about revisiting my early stuff. I thought maybe I give those songs a chance, too. It’s kind of like lookin’ at an album of old photographs, and you look at yourself and say, “wow that was me then” [laughs]. I’m always writing ideas down and then I stick ‘em in my pocket and put ‘em in that folder so I don’t loose them. Like, somebody might say something, and I’ll go, oh that’s a good line, and that goes in the folder too. It’s kind of an on-going process for me.
How did you come to cover AC/DC’s “It’s A Long Way to the Top” on the album?
I heard them on the radio, of course, and I always admired the guitar player and stuff, but it wasn’t the kind of music that I listened to on a regular basis. I was more into ‘60s rock. But it was really [manager-fiancé] Tom Overby who said “You know, we need a good rock and roll song for this record, let’s try to think of a cool cover we could do, like an older song.” I would have picked this one song by this band Mountain. And then Tom found this AC/DC song, and I said, “I don’t know!” I didn’t even know the song. He said let’s just try it and see. First the band worked it out, and then I came into the studio later, at the end of the day, and I went in and said, “OK, let’s give it a shot,” but I was still kind of resistant. It took a little time for me to figure out the phrasing and everything. I took a stab at it and we ran through it a couple of times I guess, and I thought, wow, I can do this It’s just goes to show, you never know, you know?
How did it feel to be called America’s Greatest Songwriter by Time magazine?
My first reaction was wait a minute! What about Bob Dylan, what about John Prine, what about Leonard Cohen? What I was told was, they’re talking about for now, for this specific time period. That made me feel a little more comfortable [laughs] I felt a little humbled, to say the least. I mean all that stuff is a little, I don’t want to say hard to handle, but it’s certainly humbling, when you’ve been playing as long as I have, and things have taken a while to get to that point. And you never forget your beginnings. I don’t have a hard time keeping everything in perspective, you know? I probably have a hard time enjoying the fruits of my labor, and just being comfortable with it, just letting it happen, letting it be.
In the extended interview that can be viewed here, Williams discusses the reaction to her most sexual song, “Come On,” and her love of Mia Doi Todd and Audioslave.
Hometown: Lake Charles, La.
Favorite Songwriter Find:
I was actually really inspired by this artist named Mia Doi Todd. She’s just a really really brilliant songwriter kind of more in the underground folk pop thing I guess. She goes out and tours and stuff… a friend of turned me on to her, a record she put out on a little indie label, and this was when I was still living in Nashville, before I moved back to Los Angeles. About six years ago. And I really was just struck by her lyrics. Her voice was soft and moody sounding, and her melodies were great, but her lyrics really impressed me. I’d never heard of her before.