Jim Lauderdale’s exquisite songwriting shines at Springfest

By Matt Wickstrom

Last month at Suwannee Springfest I had the opportunity to speak with legendary americana singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale. We discussed Suwannee, collaborations, songwriting, and much more. Check out the interview after the break.

Matt Wickstrom: “How long have you been performing at festivals down here at Suwannee?”

Jim Lauderdale: “It’s been since 1998 or 99.”

MW: “What does Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park mean to you? It’s obviously special here for you to have been coming back here since the late 90s.”

JL: “I’ve just had so many incredible times that I’ll always remember here. I used to just come to Springfest, then they started having Magnolia Fest too, so it’s like having a double treat twice a year. It’s so nice to hear other people play and hear new stuff and see old friends jam, especially on the last night. Sunday night here at Springfest we usually get together for a big jam. I usually get with the Donna the Buffalo folks. It’s a lot of fun.”

MW: “Can you tell me a little bit about Music City Roots?”

JL: “Music City Roots is a show I help out with on Wednesdays unless I’m away from Nashville. It’s usually four or five different acts, and they record a podcast. There’s an archive at musiccityroots.com. There’s a PBS series as well. I love working with those guys. Buddy Miller and I also have a show on Sirius XM Outlaw Country on channel 60 called the “Buddy & Jim Show”. Buddy’s an old friend, and we put out a record together about three years ago, finally. I’ve known him for about 35 years. I just released my latest record a few months ago too, called “Soul Searching”. It’s a double CD. North Mississippi All Stars are on both of them , with other sit-ins too. One was recorded in Memphis and it’s kind of old soul music type stuff that I wrote, and the other was recorded in Nashville.”

MW: “Being based out of Nashville, do you have any involvement with the Grand Ole Opry?”

JL: “I moved to Nashville about 22 years ago, and have been playing at the Opry for most of that time, since 1998. I play there anytime I’m not on the road and they have a spot open.

MW: “That’s awesome! Erin (Scholze) was joking with me earlier that it seems like you release an album or two every year. Is it fair to say you’re always writing new music?”

JL: “I’m always thinking of the next thing, I guess it’s because of my ADD, because once I finish a record I have to think of another one, but that helps me to write; motivates me.”

MW: “What are some of your favorite topics to explore in your songwriting?”

JL: “I try to branch out. I think when you first start out a lot of your songs are about relationships, but as you write and write and write you can’t have it be about that all the time. I’ve written with Robert Hunter a lot, who also wrote a bunch with Jerry Garcia. We’ve written about 100 songs together, and six of my records are collaborations with him. He’s inspired me a lot, because even when I first started listening to The Grateful Dead the songs had such a wide range to them, so that motivates me to try to write about different things. For example, on “Soul Searching”, there’s a song about water; an ode to water, because there’s so many droughts and all that stuff, so different things like that.”

Steve Mack (photographer): “I’m a huge John Prine fan, so to see both of you here this weekend has been amazing. Have you ever collaborated with John Prine?”

JL: “We’ve never collaborated, but I’ve known him for a long time. I got his first album when I was in high school and listened to it over and over. I did a few shows with him seven or eight years ago in Texas.”

MW: “Even with everyone you’ve collaborated with over the years, I’m sure there’s still a few names out there you’d like to work with but haven’t had the opportunity to yet. Does anybody in particular stand out?”

JL: “You know, every time someone asks me that I can never think of anyone, and then a little later I’ll remember and be like “Darn it, how I forget so and so…  I’ve gotten to sing harmony with Keith Richards (Rolling Stones) before, but I’d love to write with him too. I’d like to do some more with Robert Hunter, and I’d love to do a duet with Merle Haggard (R.I.P.) sometime too. I would have love to do something with Van Morrison too.

MW: “Thank you so much for you time Jim!”

Head over to Jim Lauderdale’s official web site to check out his latest music and tour dates.


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