April 17, 2007 / 7:59 PM / 12 years ago

Singer Lucinda Williams makes mature hip, sexy

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.

Lucinda Williams accepts the Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for her song "Get Right With God" at the 44th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, in this February 27, 2002 file photo. Singer-songwriter Williams says she's at the peak of her career after over 30 years in the business and is continuing to write music prolifically. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn GMH/SV

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.

Lucinda Williams performs at the 34th annual Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, in this April 24, 2003 file photo. Singer-songwriter Williams says she's at the peak of her career after over 30 years in the business and is continuing to write music prolifically. REUTERS/David Rae Morris drm/GAC

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?”

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