Considered one of the fathers of Americana, multiple Grammy and Americana Music Association Award winner Jim Lauderdale is one of the most respected singer-songwriters today. Over twenty-six albums he has successfully gone where the music leads him: roots, country, folk, bluegrass, soul and more. In addition to being an artist in his own right, Lauderdale has had his work recorded by George Jones, The Dixie Chicks, George Strait and many others. In the continuing series spotlighting the artists of Magnolia Fest, Lauderdale warmly took the time to speak about the festival, including what has him returning year after year, his upcoming album Soul Searching and more.
Magnolia Fest is heading into its 19th year, have you been present at them all?
I have not, but I have been doing it, gosh I lost count I’ve been doing it for so long. I started out doing Springfest and have been so fortunate to be able to do both every year for a while now; they’re one of the highlights of my year.
There are so many festivals nowadays, what makes Magnolia Fest so special and has you returning?
Well, for one thing I love the people that attend the festival. There are some who have returned for all these years and some who started later and keep coming back because they enjoy it so much. It is really nice to touch base with those people. And of course there are the performers. It’s a comfortable atmosphere and nice to reconnect with other bands and artists where this may be the only time our paths cross all year. And I really like to jam. Some of the nights after everything is over, I get to jam with some of these folks, like my friends Donna The Buffalo who are there every year. We get to play together and I love to do that every opportunity I get.
Sounds like a wonderful time in many regards. I had the opportunity to speak with Tara Nevins and she was saying the audience there is a very attentive, music loving audience. Do you find that as well?
I do. They are very enthusiastic and you can feel it. As a performer it makes so much of a difference when you’re looking out and you see people enjoying it and giving back to you what you’re giving to them. That makes it really such a pleasurable experience.
Have you found that the festival has changed over time?
I think they’re getting some of these huge bands down there and the attendance has picked up, which is great. So I hope this festival will keep on until I can’t play anymore because I truly love it.
Many of the artists there you know well, but is there anyone that you either haven’t seen that you want to or someone you think anyone attending should not miss?
Now, I noticed the Avetts are going to be there and I think that’s a real coup to get them, they’re so huge. They were playing the arena, the biggest venue in town [Nashville], and for them to be back there [MagFest] is really great; it shows too how much they love playing there. I have not seen the Tedeschi Trucks Band there so that’s gonna be great. Del has been there several times and I love any chance I get to see him. Keller Williams always has something creative going on and has done some work with the Travelin McCourys so I’ll bet there is going to be some jamming. I am fortunate enough to have seen Lake Street Dive shortly after they first started and they have really taken off. Jeff Austin is always a treat to see and I have not seen this collaboration with Roosevelt Collier, so that’s gonna be fun. And of course the Steep Canyon Rangers, I saw those guys way back when; we worked together as they were starting out and they just exploded. The Lee Boys are perennials there and always rocking, and Col. Bruce Hampton is another favorite, people just love him. The Band of Heathens are a great Americana band out of Texas and Nikki Talley, who is a great singer-songwriter from Asheville I’ve known for quite some time; they’re quite taken with her down there. Grandpa’s Cough Medicine is one last band to recommend. They’re an acoustic blue-grassy kind of trio. They’re excellent pickers and singers who are pushing the limits; very edgy, but a really cool band to catch. Of course the whole line-up is great. If I’m not mistaken they have four stages, so there is something going on all the time.
Prior to MagFest, you are going to be busy hosting the Americana Honors and Awards and releasing a new album.
Yes, that’s next week and then after that I am releasing the new record on the 25th of September. I’m doing something different this time—the album is a double album called Soul Searching. I have certain songs I do every time [he performs], but with all of these new ones, it’ll be a different show for me at the fest, so I’m looking forward to that.
I'm sure the audience will be looking forward to that as well.
What is the significance to the title Soul Searching?
It’s a title of one of the songs. One of albums is a soul album that I recorded mostly in Memphis in the studio where Al Green used to record called Royal Studio and the other one I did in Nashville at Studio A, the old RCA studio that was about to be demolished to make condos. It was saved and so I wanted to get back in there, celebrate that and record. Part One, Memphis, is 60’s soul type music and Nashville, part two, is a rocking country-ish album. I have twenty-six new songs spread out over both and releasing that many songs at one time is new for me. I had twenty songs on I’m A Song, and I considered that a double album, but I put everything on one disc. This time I had to put them on two because it would have exceeded a time limit of the cd to have it sound good.
The press release for the album says that this is a “new adventure” for you. Is that because of the large soul component and amount of songs or something else as well?
Both of those things. In some ways, it’s kind of a departure stylistically for me. I’ve had maybe one or two soul songs on different albums, but to have thirteen songs that’s soul stuff on one record, that’s new for me. I’ve had some quirky songs on some of my albums, but I consider that to be the Nashville record, just lyrically and melodically in a lot of ways it’s kind of different than what I’ve ever done as well.
But another thing is that there is one constant thread on this album and that is that the guitar player, Luther Dickinson, and the drummer, Cody Dickinson, his brother, who are in a band called the North Mississippi Allstars, play on both records.
Are all of the songs originals?
They are. I co-wrote two of them with my friend Odie Blackmon. Odie had three songs on I’m A Song and he co-wrote nine of the eleven songs on Country Super Hits Vol 1. He’s a great writer and producer and the Memphis records kicks off with a song we wrote, "There’s No End To The Sky.”
Luther co-wrote another song on Memphis called “And It Hurts,” but other than that the other twenty-four I wrote alone and they’re all new. Since last May I’ve really been at it.
Yes you have and for quite some time. It seems as if you are always writing.
I am, but I think this started before I’m A Song. Within a year, I put out four albums-two I co-wrote with Robert Hunter, one was a bluegrass album and then there was I’m A Song, which I feel was a traditional type country record with some of it pushing the envelope. Between those records and this one, I think I’ve written more than ever over the last couple of years, and I like that.
I’ll be pretty busy promoting this record, but then it’ll be onto the next thing as far as writing, because I feel like I’m on a roll. I’m entering a new phase of writing and want do another country record, and I’m due for another bluegrass record, so I need to get busy with those.
Sounds like we may be getting another three or four records within a year’s time then?
Oh yeah, probably.
It is obvious that you love what you do, but being involved with so many things, do you ever take a break?
You know, the only break I ever take is when I go over to China to study Tai Chi. I do that every few years and will probably go this year at some point. I go for a week and see some of my teachers over there and try to deepen my studies with that, but other than that I really haven’t gotten a chance. I should take a break, but it might be a little while.
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