CHICAGO (Reuters Life!) - Singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams says she’s at the peak of her career after over 30 years in the business and is continuing to write music prolifically.
Williams, 54, the triple-Grammy winning roots-rock musician famous for penning tales of breakups, loneliness and redemption, is enjoying high acclaim for “West,” her 8th studio album, and is in the midst of a year-long tour.
The Louisiana-bred, Los Angeles-based singer spoke to Reuters in her languid Bayou drawl about being a rocker in middle age and processing pain through song:
Q: I read that you wanted “West” to be “mature but hip.” Isn’t that an oxymoron?
A: “To a lot of people it isn’t (but) I think within the rock music industry, getting older is not seen as hip. It’s different in the jazz world and the blues world: it doesn’t matter how many wrinkles you have or how much weight you gain.
“But the rock world is very youth oriented and youth obsessive. There are only a few women in my age group out there still showing themselves. Marianne Faithful, Chrissie Hynde. Patti Smith is a great example. But you can almost count them on one hand. I want to show that you can be an older woman and be sexy and hip.”
Q: Compared to those musicians you’ve had a different career trajectory.
A: “The whole thing in my career that’s so unusual, first of all, is that I’m 54 years old. My career is just reaching this peak. I don’t know what to attribute that to, except that my thinking doesn’t revolve around my age. Most people think I’m a lot younger than I am. I’ve been doing this since my 20s, but it just took me longer to get to this place. I never gave up. My creativity and my art doesn’t revolve around my success”
Q: On “West” you write about your mother’s death in 2003. Are there any subjects too painful for you to air in public?
A: “No, there’s nothing completely off limits. I think it’s just a matter of being able to get the song out of that kind of whatever experience it is. Because I see myself as an artist first I don’t censor myself.”
Q: At least you can process the pain through your work.
A: “Exactly, which is very liberating. I think I appreciate it more as time goes on. I’m able to take things that would otherwise be kind of stuffed inside, and get them out.”
Q: I hear you’ve been working with Bob Dylan on a Hank Williams project.
A: “Apparently these Hank Williams lyrics were discovered, and (Dylan) came up with the idea of having different songwriters finish the songs. I already did mine and recorded it, an acoustic solo. It’s a real honor.”
Q: You’re engaged to be married, and rumored to be writing some happier songs.
A: “I wouldn’t necessarily call them happy versus sad, but they are kind of upbeat love songs as opposed to breakup songs. I’ve got one called ‘Honey Bee.’ It’s kind of a bluesy song (sings a few bars). And then I’ve got this other one, ‘Sugar,’ that’s kind of a Brazilian, Sade-esque kind of thing. They’re just kind of sexy little fun songs. Nothing too heavy.”
Q: What’s the biggest misconception people have of you?
A: “The perfectionism thing has been brought up a lot. I guess I am somewhat of a perfectionist, but I don’t necessarily see that as a negative thing. I’ve seen things written about me hard to work with, hard to handle. Those are all written by men. I think it’s a rather chauvinistic description. There’s a lot of that still in the music business. There’s still a lot of sexism all around. I mean, come on, what artist isn’t difficult?”