Lucero, the rowdy country punk-rock quintet from Memphis, Tennessee, is set to release their new album, When You Found Me, on January 29th. Following their 2018 release, Among the Ghosts, the band (Ben Nichols, Roy Berry, John C. Stubblefield, Rick Steff and Brian Venable) returned to Sam Phillips Recording for their tenth studio album. Ahead of its release, Lucero’s lead singer Ben Nichols spoke with American Songwriter about their 10-track rock and roll record that possesses a delightful twist.
“A lot of the inspiration for When You Found Me came from family,” Nichols began. He continued to explain that having a family has altered his approach to songwriting (especially with a four-year-old underfoot). “In the old days, Lucero wrote plenty of songs about heartbreaks and whiskey and late nights in dive bars and that kind of lonely lifestyle. The songwriting had to evolve from those topics. Now I’ve got a family and a whole new kind of way of life,” Nichols said.
Yet, “there’s still a melancholy to it,” Nichols confirmed regarding the album. “But now the heartbreak is the kind of heartbreak that I feel when I have to leave my family and go on the road or go record. The heartbreak is a different kind of heartbreak. The songs are more about my family; either how I miss them when they’re not around or more about how much they’ve changed me and shaped me,” Nichols said.
From the opening song, “Have You Lost Your Way,” to the final and title track, “When You Found Me,” the influence of family is undeniable. Many of the songs feature a protagonist in conversation with loved ones. The title track, in particular, references a character who turns to family when danger arises. Nichols specifically describes, “a narrator in these kinds of dire situations, falling from the sky or surrounded by flames or drowning in the ocean.”
He continued, “And I knew the point of the song was to get the storyteller out of those dangerous spots… and in my particular case it was my family that saved me. But I wasn’t sure how to express that in the song. So, it took a little bit of thinking and luck to come up with the kind of idea of well, even though you couldn’t save me, you gave me a way to save myself.”
This sentiment of collaborative triumph is fascinating, especially when bolstered by Lucero’s soulful sound. Each track is determinedly gritty and easily classified as a toe-tapper. The record is also elevated in its technical foundation that may surprise longtime fans.
“Sonically there’s a new layer on this record,” Nichols said. “This is the first time we’ve delved into synthesizers. I wanted a record that sounded like stuff I heard on the radio when I was growing up, and I grew up in the 80s…. As I’ve grown older, I guess it’s nostalgia, and I’ve gone back and appreciated those sounds. It was really fun to get to incorporate some of that into the Lucero songwriting process. So yeah, sonically that kind of nostalgic radio sound was a big influence.”
Overall, Lucero’s new album is the complete package; lyrically and sonically When You Found Me excels. This excellence seems to stem from Lucero’s established work ethic as honest musicians.
“I just wanted to make a kind of classic sounding rock and roll album with good lyrics and decent songwriting,” Nichols concluded. “I wanted something that had the melancholy and the heartfelt lyrics of some of the stuff we’ve done in the past but also wanted it to be a fun record to listen to—something that you might hear on a radio station from way back when. And so yeah, really, I just wanted to make quality rock and roll.”
Listen to “Back in Ohio” from When You Found Me below, and find out more here.
Photo Credit: Bob Bayne