As “America’s best songwriter” according to TIME magazine in 2001, Lucinda Williams brings decades of critically acclaimed musicianship to every performance she gives. The seasoned artist has been staying busy with touring, side project albums and a performance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. She has an upcoming concert at the Georgia Theatre on May 3, and she found time to talk with The Red & Black about taking her husband along on the road, her growing confidence as a vocalist and recent collaborations.
The Red & Black: Have you ever performed in Athens before?
Lucinda Williams: I remember playing at the Georgia Theatre there. I love Athens. It’s great. I like playing places like the Georgia Theatre, places where the sound is good. It’s more like a rock show. People are standing up, drinking beer and whatever, being lively, as opposed to sit-down theater places.
R&B: Do you think of yourself as more of a rock artist or country, or just a combination of things?
L.W.: It’s sort of like Tom Petty meets Neil Young meets Bob Dylan. It’s kind of a blend of rock and country. I don’t say country anymore because you have to clarify it. It means a whole different thing than it used to mean.
R&B: Would you say your sound has evolved?
L.W.: I feel more confident as a vocalist than I ever have. Definitely my stage presence has evolved. I used to hardly talk to the audience, I was so shy. Now I’ve got a lot more animated on stage and communicate with the audience more. I think my songwriting has evolved. I’ve kept up a certain level of artistry. I’m writing as much or more than I ever have. We’ve got a couple more weeks to go yet, it’s going to be like an eight-week tour. That’s a pretty long haul, you know.
R&B: Do you enjoy touring?
L.W.: Yeah, I do. It gets tiring, but I’ve got a great band, I’ve got a great crew. It’s like a little family. I miss everybody when I’m not on the road. Right now I think we’re out more than we’re home, definitely.
R&B: I know that a lot of the artistry you’ve done has been covers and collaborations with other artists. Is that something you enjoy doing? What do you look for when you’re collaborating with someone else?
L.W.: It’s always an honor to get asked by someone whose music I really like and listen to. Elvis Costello and I’ve worked together a couple of times. He’s actually an amazing guitar player, a lot of people don’t realize that. I’ve done a lot of different side projects, like tribute albums. When I’m in Los Angeles, where we live — my husband Tom [Overby] and I — that’s when I’m able to do a lot of side projects. When we get back this time, believe it or not, Joe Perry from Aerosmith and Johnny Depp are getting together to work on a project and they’re having different people come in and do stuff.
R&B: Your husband is involved in music as well, is that right?
L.W.: Yeah, he co-produces with me. Tom also manages [me]. We started doing a little writing together. He came up with the line “Ghost of Highway 20” [from newest album “The Ghosts of Highway 20.”] He’s on the road with me. It’s pretty hard, once you get to a certain age, not having your significant other traveling with you.
R&B: Where are some of the places you want to go [musically]?
L.W.: I’d love to do a blues album, I’d love to do a really cool country album. For years I’ve wanted to do an album of standards, Frank Sinatra, that kind of thing. I love so many different kinds of music. I think it would be cool to do specialized albums like that. There’s never a shortage of ideas, that’s for sure.