Lyle Lovett

During the early pandemic lockdowns my wife, Jenna Zine, and I searched out interesting online streaming performances as a way to keep connected to the experience of going out to see live entertainment. We found it uplifting to be in “real time” with the performers and other audience members, while also helping support artists. One of our favorites was catching Lyle Lovett’s In Conversation & Song, where he remotely shared songs and stories with songwriters he admired, such as Lisa Loeb, Terry Allen, Shawn Colvin, Michael McDonald, and Marcus King. Lyle’s honesty and respect for songs really stands out when he talks with other songwriters, so when his new album, 12th of June, was coming out I thought it’d be interesting to talk to Lyle about the recording of the songs as well. As I expected, he was a true gentleman; he practically started interviewing me, and we had a great time talking.

Before I forget, my wife says I have to thank you for the In Conversation & Song livestreams.

Oh, thank you! We did 20 during the isolation. I enjoyed doing them so much that I haven’t given up on the idea of doing more. It was so weird at first. I did my first one when it was still the first serious lockdown. John Hiatt and I have been friends for years, and I felt comfortable enough with John to call him and ask him if he’d do it. It was free across all the socials and our websites. We had 318,000 actual views. I couldn’t believe it. The company that we worked with to help us broadcast it measured all the metrics and knew how to do all that. It flabbergasted me. I heard from a lot of folks who don’t get out, or can’t get out and can’t go to shows, even when we’re playing live. That was a great feeling.

You’re reaching people that you wouldn’t normally reach, and in such a different format. I’m amazed how much research you seemed to be doing for each one.

Well, aren’t you nice? For the most part, those were friends of mine, so I didn’t have to do research. But it was fun to get to try and help set them up to tell a story and talk about their process a little bit. That’s what I enjoyed hearing as a fan. I approached it like that. The weak point was that every other song was one of mine, for me. [laughs] I would have rather just interviewed.

Well, I don’t know if that’s a weak point. The first question is a “guest question.” I reached out to your former pianist, Matt Rollings [Tape Op #133], and he asked, “What are the challenges of recording vocals and guitar at the same time? Is it easier to just sing, or to do both live?”

Oh, that’s really cool. Recording vocals and guitar, doing that at the same time, does present a technical problem with leakage.

Separation, yeah.

Even if I am going direct with the guitar, which we did not do on this record, we’ll still have guitar leakage in the vocal.

Yeah, definitely.

It’s something that I’ve struggled with, or had to deal with, from my very first recordings. Matt will know that playing and singing at the same time is important to the way my songs feel, and important to the phrasing. I would phrase differently if I sang without playing, and vice versa. So, for the songs to feel the way I think they should feel – the way that they do when I make them up, sitting on the side of my bed or wherever – I’ve got to play and sing them at the same time.

Is that something you work out with a producer or engineer? Asking questions about what their best technique’s going to be for that?

Yeah. I say, “This is what I’m doing. Deal with it.” They go, “Okay.” [laughter] I’ve actually worked with just a handful of engineers and producers over the years. They understand why it’s important to me. They’re technically able to help as much as they can. It’s a factor, and it’s part of the way the records sound. That leakage is just part of it. It’s not ideal, but I’m of the mind that it’s more important to have the songs feel right than it is to have them sound pristine but not have that feel. It’s something that we have to accept and work around it.

Your new record, 12th of June, was engineered and co-produced with the fabulous Chuck Ainlay [Tape Op #97].

Chuck is one of my favorite engineers. My first three records were released from the Nashville part of MCA Records. Tony Brown was the head of A&R at MCA Records in Nashville at the time, and Tony was the one who gave me the green light at MCA. Jimmy Bowen was running MCA Nashville in those days.

Lyle Lovett

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