Q: How have your sources of inspiration changed, or expanded, over time?
A: I’ve always had this ability to dig. I always call it the well or wealth of information, if you will. And obviously, as you get older, there’s more knowledge. Hopefully you’re wiser and have more knowledge and greater perception and just all the things, all the positive things, that come with being older.
Q: Perspective? Insight?
A: Yeah, perspective and insight. Those are the things that are great gifts but we don’t look at them that way…. I’m just getting chills talking about this.
Q: Can you talk about how your perspective is shifting as you get older?
A: Again, I think it’s always been there. My mother, when I was a lot younger, she used to say, “How did you get to be so wise?” I think I was just one of those kids. We all have a sixth sense, you know? We all are born with these extra sensory perceptions. It’s all in there, but it’s just blocked because of, I don’t know, the human condition or whatever. And some people end up with a little bit more or they’re able to tap into it, and other people aren’t and never do. Some people grow and some people don’t grow. Who knows why that is?
Q: It sounds like you’ve been tapping into something for a long time.
TOM: Well, I think one of the definitions of a real artist, you know, is to keep growing and going forward and to have true artistic courage, really.
A: That’s a good word too, courage.
TOM: I think it’s something that she’s completely been overlooked for.
Q: I agree. I think that one of the pillars of creativity is risk-taking. And I think that as we age some people become more adventurous but plenty of other people become–
TOM: Repetitive. It’s like wearing your favorite shirt over and over–
Q: In many aspects of their lives, people become really attracted to safety and security and familiarity.
A: It’s like you see people the same exact age, men and women both, and one person can look 20 years older than the other person just because of their vibe and their attitude and whatever. You know? It’s so hard to, you know, verbalize what that is, but it’s–
Q: Yeah. We use terms like “being in a rut” as a euphemism, but that actually happens in our brains. We develop patterns of thinking that get deeper and deeper as we age.
TOM: We talk about this stuff all the time.
A: My major was going to be cultural anthropology. It wasn’t going to be music. I mean, I did want to be a musician but I was 18, 19, and they said, “Well, pick something.” And I picked cultural anthropology because we’d lived in Mexico City for a year and lived in Santiago, Chile, and I was just fascinated with different cultures. Somebody told me once, “Well, you are a cultural anthropologist of sorts. You know? You’re digging.” I love just watching people and looking and observing. That’s what being an artist is to me. My dad used to say that you can’t censor yourself. That was one of the first rules that I learned, talking with my dad and other poets and writers. So I learned about being an artist from true artists, not from the pop world. So right from the get go I was coming from that perspective, and I still am. I haven’t changed and it’s served me really well, because I’m going to be doing what I’m doing anyway. I mean, Georgia O’Keefe got really big and famous and everything, but she certainly wasn’t painting in order to be famous. That’s the essence of it.
Q: It’s about intention.
A: That’s exactly what it is. And I’m very blessed, which is the name of the new album, because, wow, I’m an artist and I’m doing what I do and I’m able to make a living. I mean not to over-romanticize it, but I just feel like I’m one of the fortunate few. I think Bruce Springsteen is one of those people. Patti Smith.
TOM: Elvis Costello.
A: Elvis Costello, definitely.
Q: Unlike others who become, sort of, monkeys for peanuts. It’s like, “I’ll do the same thing over and over again if you just keep giving me a peanut.”
A: And then, you know, at the opposite end of what you’re talking about, there are people who I’ve seen who are extremely talented who are so freaked out, they have either fear of success or fear of failure, I don’t know, they kind of go the opposite way. And I’m looking at them going, “Well, wait a minute, you’ve got to make a living. We’ve got to all pay the bills here.” I mean, is there something wrong with being successful with your art? Do these people think that it’s kind of like grotesque or something? Then they end up, to me, kind of screwing themselves. By the same token, you can’t look at someone who’s real famous like Bruce Springsteen or Elvis Costello and assume that they’re not true artists. You know? And those are the artists who’ve inspired me.
TOM: This kind of relates to what we’ve been talking about, but one of the most insightful things somebody wrote, I can’t even remember where, and it’s probably more profound than he even intended it, he wrote, “Lucinda, with every record, challenges boundaries, challenges labels, but never loses her center.”
A: But I don’t go into things approaching it that way. I mean, it’s kind of like the guy who jumps in to save the kid who’s drowning in the lake and everybody goes, “Oh, you’re a hero, you’re a hero.” And the guy goes, “Look, I just did what anybody would do.” When I did Essence, the record was a little different but I felt really secure about it at the time, because I felt like I had to come up with a lot of songs that were more similar to the ones on Car Wheels, like Drunken Angel and Lake Charles, you know, dramatic, and those songs took a long time to work on and were more narrative kinds of songs. And obviously there’s a big difference between writing a song like Drunken Angel and, you know, Are You Down. But at the same time, it was kind of liberating. At the time I was writing those songs, Time Out of Mind, Bob Dylan’s album had come out, and I saw him sort of doing a similar thing, where he was just kind of relying more on, you know, the vibe in the music and the beat and everything. And I remember the Tennessee International trashed Time Out of Mind. They said, “Oh, this isn’t the Bob Dylan we know. Where are all the interesting metaphorical deep lyrics, blah, blah, blah?” And I kind of just went, “Wow, he’s kind of dealing with a similar thing.”
Q: You can’t please everybody. You can’t think about what the world expects from you.
A: But I looked at it as like a weakness almost at first. Like, I’m not able to write songs like the other ones and, I don’t know, is this going to be okay or–
TOM: But you told me that you just kind of consciously wanted to go write a different kind of song.
A: Well, at the end I came out that way. But you know, I was kind of sitting there, I didn’t have any new songs yet for the next record and my manager at the time, Frank, said, “Lu, you know, we’ve got to get some songs here. You know, we’ve got another studio, it’s time to make another record.” It was like a sophomore jinx thing. Because of the Car Wheels record and all the blah, blah, blah, you know? And it was kind of scary. And I went into this tailspin of writing for about ten days and some of the songs were songs I’d started a long time ago and I finished, like Bus to Baton Rouge and Blue. I almost felt guilty because the songs didn’t take as long to write. I was tripping out. I was tripping.