Lyle Lovett Interview
If you catch Lyle Lovett with a magazine in his hands, chances are he won't be reading anything about himself."When it comes to reviews, I get people to tell me if it's a good review or a bad review, but I think it changes your perspective a little bit if you pay too much attention to what people are saying," Lovett said. "I think you can think about it too much. You think about reaction to what you're doing sometimes more than you would otherwise, and for me the reason I play music is really the joy of getting to play and sing. It can change the way you look at it...The fun of getting to do it for me is performing in a way that I enjoy performing. It's presenting my music in a way I want to present it. And if you start to consider the reaction too much, it can creep into your presentation. That's why I don't read things."Of course, it's only fitting that Lovett wouldn't want to be influenced by the opinions and observations of others. For this native of Klein, Texas, making music has always been about following his own instincts and creating an individual identity.In fact, as soon as Lovett emerged in 1986, it was clear he would be an American original. Although he was at first marketed as a country artist -- his self-titled debut even produced a couple of modest hit singles in "Cowboy Man" and "Farther Down The Line" -- his songs immediately showed that Lovett was also well versed in blues, jazz, gospel and rootsy rock and roll.And with later records, such as Lyle Lovett And His Large Band and Joshua Judges Ruth, Lovett stretched further outside the confines of any single genre -- country or otherwise. While still playing many songs in the spare, acoustic style of his first two CDs, Lyle Lovett and Pontiac," he also introduced jazzy horn-filled arrangements into songs like "Here I Am" and "Since The Last Time.""I've just been really lucky to be supported by my record company, that they haven't restricted me to sort of one type of music or another," Lovett said. "I mean I've been lucky to be able to record kind of anything I could think of and be able to draw from different influences that I have."Aside from preserving his musical identity, Lovett has had other reasons in recent times to avoid seeing his name in print. Where in early years, virtually all the attention was confined to music publications, with his highly publicized marriage to actress Julia Roberts in 1993 -- and their subsequent separation -- Lovett became a frequent target of the tabloid press.Lovett, with his angular features and gravity-defying shock of long brown hair, is considered by many to be handsome in only an unconventional sense. The tabloid press often unflatteringly characterized the Lovett-Roberts marriage as a case of the frog who somehow won and later lost the heart of the beautiful princess.The torrent of attention has made the marriage and split a touchy subject for Lovett. In fact, his publicist was instructed to ask journalists not to bring up Roberts unless Lovett himself mentioned her during the interview.As it turned out, Lovett, who seemed upbeat, friendly and engaging throughout the interview, graciously responded to questions about Roberts, even though he had not referred to her directly up to that point in our conversation."Julia and I have remained close through everything we've gone through," Lovett said. "Certainly our relationship is different now than it was, but the relationship we have is very good and we're friends. I think of her as my family. And so we're very close, even through everything we've gone through."In fact, she's, ever since I met her, has been one of my biggest supporters musically and has provided me with so much encouragement," Lovett said. "You know, things between Julia and me are very friendly."Lovett's direct response about Roberts is probably a wise move at this time because his latest CD, The Road To Ensenada, is sure to cause speculation about his marriage and divorce. Many songs on the CD -- "Who Loves You Better," "I Can't Love You Anymore" and "Promises," to name a few -- examine with heartaching detail the dissolution of relationships.Lovett understands that plenty of people will look for clues about his life within such songs."It's a natural reaction to have to it," he said. "In fact, I've always written about relationships, so any of my records could be looked at in that light. It's a natural thing. I'd be foolish if I was offended by that."But he's quick to point out that the inspirations for the Ensenada CD -- while they come from real life -- go well beyond any single relationship."When you write from your own life, I mean you take your ideas from so many different sorts of inspiration. You can write about your life without sort of telling about your life," he said. "That's what I've always done. The songs, there aren't any stories in the songs. None of narrative in the songs tells about something that actually happened in my life. The feelings that are represented in the songs are from my life. But they're not played out in any sort of narrative way that actually tells about something that happened in my life."You're trying to communicate an emotion in a song," Lovett added. "You're trying to get across the emotion, so in writing a song, it requires you to sort of figure out the best way to communicate that emotion. So yeah, often times what really happened wouldn't do it."Musically, The Road To Ensenada marks a return to Lovett's leaner, acoustic sound, and in fact is his most country oriented record since Pontiac. The musical direction, however, doesn't necessarily signal any trend, Lovett said."It is a little more country," he agreed. "I mean, the songs just sort of played out that way. And for me, the song determines the arrangement. I don't start with an overall concept of wanting to make one kind of record or another. I just sort of look at the songs individually and then arrange the songs musically for what's appropriate for each song. And that's the way this record kind of played out."