Q: But Time Out of Mind ended up being a very critically well-received record and Essence eventually did, too.
A: Eventually. I was discovering new, different kinds of music, which is all connected with raw blues and funk and stuff, you know? Thievery Corporation and all that, you know? When I wrote Righteously, at the same time Car Wheels was out, Lauren Hill’s album was just out, and I listened to it, and I was really impressed, you know, with what she was doing. And it kind of led me into this whole other world of music. Who was that other artist who came out? She didn’t get as famous for some reason but I loved her.
TOM: Jill Scott.
A: Jill Scott. I loved that first album she came out with. It flipped me out. So, I was listening to her album, and when I wrote Righteously, people went, “What the fuck?” There was this one review that said “Little Missy, she ain’t.” [she seemed to be conflating Lil Kim and Missy Elliott] And I’m like, I’m not trying to be Little Missy, dude. I’ve always been into different kinds of things. Even when I was just being a folk singer I’ve never considered myself a folk singer, you know? I mean, I always wanted to do more a thing like Jim Morrison or something like that, to tell you the honest to God truth.
Q: I believe that.
A: You know, like a female Jim Morrison. I was into him when I was 16 years old. I went from, like, Woody Guthrie to Peter, Paul and Mary to Joan Baez and Judy Collins to Bob Dylan and then Jim Morrison and Cream and, you know, Delta blues. My dad was a huge jazz person. He loves country music and jazz. When I first started out playing in bars and stuff, it was just kind of by default. I mean, I just had an acoustic guitar, I didn’t have a band. But I had all these things in my head, directions that I wanted to go and everything.
Q: What were your goals when you started out and how have they changed?
A: God, I don’t know. You know, it’s so weird to think back. It’s so long ago. I mean, I remember, and this sounds really, really overly romantic, but I read somewhere Joni Mitchell actually said something like, “You know, I really just wanted to be able to make some money so I could buy some new clothes and support myself.” And that sounds sort of simplistic but I remember at one point, I thought, “Wow, it’d be great if I could not have to work a day job.” Then it was like, “Wow, if I could just get a record deal,” and then I got a record deal. It was all very relative. I got a development deal with Sony, CBS out here, like 1986, ’85, ’86, whatever it was. And it was this huge deal because they gave me some money and I had enough money to live on. I had this little apartment in Silverlake for 400 bucks a month, and I didn’t have to work a day job and I could pay my rent. And I was just on cloud nine. I didn’t know a damn thing about the music business before I moved out here. I was just being a singer-songwriter, playing around in Austin, Houston, regionally and with other musicians, we had this whole support group. But somewhere in the back of my mind, something pushed me forward. And this is something else I’ve always said, too, that you have to know deep inside that you have it. Whatever it is. You know?
Q: Although a lot of people who don’t have it–
A: Think they have it. Well, that’s a whole other book.
Q: You had that kernel of self-knowledge.
A: I had that little kernel in there. I mean, my stage presence was awful. I had this great audience, which was friends of my dad’s, when I was still living at home. And they would be over at the house drinking and talking and my dad would say, “Honey, go get your guitar and play some songs.” I’d get all this encouragement. But also honest, very honest, constructive criticism, you know? And then when I started playing out and stuff in bars, people would say, “Well, you need to kind of work on your stage presence but you’ve got a lot of soul. Keep it up.” I got passed on by so many labels it was ridiculous. It’s taken a long time. You know, it wasn’t an overnight thing. People forget.
Q: In retrospect, are you glad that success didn’t come earlier?
A: Not necessarily. I think it would have been great and incredible to be where I am now when I was 30, at my prime age and physical beauty and blah, blah, blah.
Q: Have you ever felt burned out? Have you ever lost energy in any significant way for what you’re doing?
A: No. Honest to God. But I don’t consider myself at all to be a Type A personality. I’m probably a Type Z personality. People think I’m kind of flaky or flighty or spacey or whatever. I definitely have OCD, I probably have some ADD. I don’t know. What the hell, you know? But I think the majority of creative people do.
Q: Are you as compulsive as ever about music?
A: Yes. Yes.
Q: So, it’s not a question of incentives.
A: No. It’s just, like, I have to do this. And it’s also that I don’t know how to do anything else. I dropped out of college. My dad wanted me to get a degree just so I could have something to fall back on, bless his heart. And he was right because I had no other trades, no other skills. I didn’t know how to type. So at one point, I went, “thank god this worked.”
Q: I think another piece of staying creative is to not be cynical and jaded. Because once you lose the sense of magic–
A: You can’t do it. You can’t. My dad always used to call it a sense of wonder. And I wrote about that in one of my songs, Everything Has Changed, you know? Where has my sense of wonder gone or where has my– It’s kind of imagining, not that I had lost it, but you know. It’s coming to me now for the first time talking to you guys that aside from maintaining this sense of magic and faith, when you touch people, you cultivate this sense of connection and loyalty that sees you through the years. We’re talking about honesty and, you know, being true to yourself, and a bigger connection, and age is irrelevant basically in all of these cases. I mean, nobody’s sitting around going, “Wow, I’m too old to do this. Or what do I look like? Or what do I do now? You don’t have a choice. In a good way.
TOM: It’s almost like the stages of loss, or whatever.
Q: You mean Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s stages of grieving?
TOM: Yes. Sorry, yeah, grieving. The stages of artistic longevity, they’re all there, you know? Because, just like if you look at all the careers of all the people we’re talking about, they’ve gone through the breakthrough success, boom, and then the backlash where supposedly nobody cares about them and they’re over. You know, the peaks and valleys.
Q: Have you had those peaks and valleys, Lucinda?
A: Yeah, absolutely. The thing is, I’m very self-sustainable. You know, it’s like I can go all by myself. I could always make a living. And you know, because I had been building up a fan base live for so many years, by the time I started making albums and stuff with record labels I figured out at a certain point that I had a certain kind of freedom that not all artists have. In other words, I had something they wanted, so I could make demands. I could say, like, I’m not going to do this or whatever. I remember this one guy in Nashville, he came up to me and said, “Well, you know, my record label wants me to get my teeth fixed because they feel they don’t look good enough.” And I was like, “Well, just tell them to go fuck themselves.” You know? At a certain point, I realized, just tell them what you want to do, and don’t let them control you.
Q: Well, you have a sense of your own power, and a lot of people don’t have that, no matter where they are in the pecking order. I think that’s a quality that you either have or you don’t have.
A: Yes, that’s part of it too. God, this is so complex.