Jim Lauderdale

I love to make records…

Interview with Jim Lauderdale – bluegrass, country and American singer-songwriter

© Lilly Drumeva-O’Reilly

On 6th of November 2013, I had breakfast in Nashville with Jim Lauderdale. He is an American country, bluegrass, and American singer-songwriter. He has released 23 studio albums since 1986, some of which have been collaborations with artists such as Ralph Stanley, Buddy Miller, and Donna the Buffalo. Jim’s songs have been recorded by dozens of artists, notably George Strait, Elvis Costello, Blake Shelton, the Dixie Chicks, Vince Gill, and Patty Loveless. Jim is such a nice, guy, very polite and real gentlemen. I had a chance to see him live at the Opry and at The Station Inn. He was very helpful with my research. After the interview he gave me couple of his CDs. Here is what we talked about:

Tell me about yourself and how did you become a musician?

I grew up in North and South Carolina. My father was a Presbyterian minister. My mother was a piano teacher and a church’s choir director. My older sister listened to the Beatles and other rock and roll bands. Throughout my teenage years, I would listen to records that she got.

At 13, I started working at a college radio station. I also learned to play banjo. So my musical influences came from gospel, rock and roll, country and bluegrass. My parents wanted me to study acting, but I wasn’t very keen on it. I wanted to play music.

In 1979 I moved to Nashville, I was 22. I’d been writing songs but I didn’t have enough to make a splash. I was hanging out with Roland White. My main influence at that time was George Jones. I really wanted to hang out with him but didn’t have a chance. My room mate was playing Dobro with a lady named Wilma Lee Cooper. So I went to the Opry every weekend and saw George couple of times. That was during his heavy drinking period and I was too nervous to introduce myself and offer to play in his band.

I left Nashville and went to New York City where I had some college friends. Oddly enough, there was a country scene there. Good musicians who have come up from Texas. There were about 5 country bars where I played with my band. I also had a day job. I was a messenger with Rolling Stone magazine. Then I got an offer to play banjo in a band on Broadway. I played Jesse James in a play and Shawn Colvin played my wife! I was hoping to get a big break, but it didn’t work out.

After New York I went to Atlanta and Dallas, then to Los Angeles. There I met Pete Anderson, Dwight Yoakum’s producer and I started singing harmonies on his albums. I met Lucinda Williams and sang for her. I recorded an album for Epic records, then for Warner and Reprise. But personnel changed and I lost the deals. I was turning 40 and getting old for mainstream country. But then, George Straight cut some of my songs. That opened the doors for me as a songwriter. Then Patty Loveless, Kathy Mattea and Vince Gill followed. This enabled me to make a living.

I moved to Nashville in 1995 and started producing my own records independently. I met Buddy Miller who became one of my best friends. I recorded also a bluegrass record with Ralph Stanley, which was my dream come true. Then I did couple of Americana albums. I have also a solo acoustic record.

How many albums do you have?

I think 26.

What do you enjoy mostly in the music business?

Performing and writing. I love to make records. It is so fulfilling.

Thanks Jim, lovely to talk to you.

Lilly Drumeva