(Media Update) Jim Lauderdale Talks Americana Music and the Annual Awards Show

We’re proud that the 10th annual Americana Music Association’s Honors and Awards Show at the Ryman Auditorium on  Thursday, October 13 at 7:00 p.m. will be broadcast live on NPT.  Those expected to attend include host Jim Lauderdale, Robert Plant, Lucinda Williams, Gregg Allman, Elizabeth CookHayes Carll, The Secret Sisters, Justin Townes Earle, Jessica Lea Mayfield, The Civil Wars and many more.

Jim LauderdaleThis will be Lauderdale’s ninth year in-a-row hosting the awards since taking home the “Artist of the Year” and “Song of the Year” at the first show in 2002. The two-time Grammy-award winning artist has a new record out, Reason and Rhyme, with Robert Hunter, and in addition to his hosting duties at the AMA Honors and Awards show, will be performing and taking part in events throughout the weekend of the AMA Festival and Conference. You can catch him, along with Buddy Miller, at 10 p.m. on Friday, October 14 at the Cannery Ballroom.  On Saturday, October 15 at 11:30 a.m. at the Ford Theatre at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum,  he’ll discuss and perform songs from his catalog in a “songwriting session,” and later in the day, from 3:00-6:00 p.m., he’ll join other musicians, including Peter Cooper and Eric Brace, at “Musicians Corner” in Centennial Park for “I Love,” A Tribute to Tom T Hall, Ben Sollee, Nanci Griffith, Brian Wright and more.

We caught up with Lauderdale from his Nashville home, where he was getting ready to hit the road for dates in Virginia and North Carolina, to talk about hosting the Honors and Awards show, his own diverse musical leanings, Manuel suits and more.

(MU) You’ve hosted this show since 2003, making this your ninth year. Do you have any favorite memories or performances from those nine years?

(JL) Well I’ll tell you, in all honesty, they’re all so different and they’ve all kind of left me standing in the wings with my jaw dropped, thinking, “I can’t believe this, there’s Robert Plant out there or hanging around back stage, there’s Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, Guy Clarke. I mean, the caliber of the performances and presenters and recipients is just mind boggling to me. So I don’t really have a particular favorite. It just keeps getting better and better.

It sounds like you’re a fan.

Very much.

So how about this year? Is there anything that attendees at the Ryman or viewers at home should particularly look forward to?

I think there’s a few surprises I’m not allowed to talk about yet. I think people will be very pleased with some of the folks that are going to be on there, and also, with the scope of talent, stylistically within Americana, that  is going to be represented on that show. It’s really impressive.

AMA Honors and AwardsIt seems to get more and more diverse, and encompass more and more of the styles that make up Americana each year.

That’s right. It is. You know. One constant, I think, is that somehow, one way or another, the deep roots of the performers and their appreciation for their influences come out. No matter if it’s someone who has a really newer sound, or someone who’s more of a traditionalist, you really see the reverence and respect from the performers for those roots.

In many ways, you seem to epitomize Americana, because you can easily transition from blues to country to rock to gospel.  Your own music seems to encompass all the styles that make up Americana.

Well, I certainly listened to a lot of things growing up. My first stringed instrument was banjo when I was a young teenage. Than getting to listen to folks that laid down the groundwork for bluegrass. Of course, Bill Monroe, The Stanley Brothers, Flatt and Scruggs …. and Ralph Stanley is someone who I’ve really admired and respected so much through the years and I’ve gotten to work with him. I think in some ways, bluegrass music is such a bedrock  for all music today, and for all American music, and certainly Americana music. So that was one of my foundations. Also listening to blues, as you were mentioning, folk, r&b and soul music, and music from the first British invasion, that was so influenced by American roots music, and early rock and blues.

You could probably go play Folk Alliance,  Americana Music Festival , CMA Fest …. you could play any number of music festivals in this country and it would not seem odd.

Well,  I would feel at home at all of them.

You probably have.

I have (laughing), and that’s the wonderful thing about the Americana Music Festival. It encompasses all of them under the one umbrella.

When Americana became a radio chart in 1995, you were in the Top 10. And here we are 16 years later and Americana is finally a music genre in the Merriam -Webster dictionary.

You know what? I don’t think any of us would have imagined that. It was such a great thing for us at the time, when things were starting with the chart, and then we had the first get-togethers and conferences. The way it has grown now… I certainly never dreamed it would be like that and am so happy about  they way it’s turning out.

You’re well known for your diverse musical styles and your talent,  but also your collection of Nudie and Manuel suits.

Mostly Manuels. I do collect some Nudies, and am getting ready to loan one that belonged to Carl Smith to the Country Music Hall of Fame. I met Manuel back in the 80s when I lived in Los Angeles, and he has kindly been making things for me ever since. I sure love to support him, because I think he is a true artist. It’s like wearing a piece of art when you wear something that Manuel makes.

Have you picked out your outfit for the awards yet?

I haven’t. I’m going over there today.

Are you going to get something custom just for the show?

I probably will.

Fantastic! Going live, I guess you have to stick to a slightly tighter schedule. Is there any thing else different about going live with show this year as opposed  to last year?

I think I’m going to have to cut some of my jokes (laughing) for the sake of keeping things rolling, unless there is some kind of glitch and they need to stall or buy some time. It is so packed with things we need to get in that I think it will be a very organized, well-planned show. I just can’t tell you how excited I am about it.

Tell me a little about the new record, Reason and Rhyme, released this past June.

This is the third full album collaboration I’ve done with Robert Hunter, one of my favorite writers. Robert, of course, co-wrote with Jerry Garcia pretty much the main stable of Grateful Dead classics. He’s a brilliant  writer. We first started writing together when I was going to do my first album with Ralph Stanley. I contacted him through my friend Rob Bleetstein, who, by the way, is credited  with coming up with the term Americana for the chart back then. We started writing for Stanley,  and I did a couple of songs on both of the records with him and then I put one on a country record I did for RCA. Then we we put out an acoustic record called Headed for the Hills back in 2004, an electric record last year called Patchwork River and then this all bluegrass record now . Randy Kohrs produced this album at his studio Slack Key Studio. Randy is an amazing dobro player, singer, writer and producer. and so we did that over there with a crack team of players. Robert and I have already written a follow up,  so I look forward to getting back together with Randy in a few months. Robert and I are also writing different things. I’m deciding right now what my springtime release will be, so I’m looking at what kinds of songs manifest themselves and go from there. But there’s really just something special about this record, Reason and Rhyme, that just came together quickly.  We recorded it quickly and there’s a real nice feel to it.

For more on Jim Lauderdale, please visit jimlauderdale.com.

For more on the American Music Association Festival and Conference, the Honors and Awards Show, including ticket, wristband and conference pass information, please visit americanamusic.org.

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