Jim Lauderdale Is King
(The GRAMMY Museum will host Reel To Reel: The King Of Broken Hearts With Jim Lauderdale on Dec. 11. The event will feature a screening of The King Of Broken Hearts, a feature-length documentary highlighting Lauderdale's career journey, and will be followed by a question-and-answer session with Lauderdale. Visit the GRAMMY Museum website for ticket information.)
Americana artists Jim Lauderdale and Buddy Miller have shared stages — and a friendship — since meeting in New York three decades ago. But until Buddy And Jim, a new album of country duets set for release on Dec. 11, they've never shared album billing, though they've "threatened" to record together for about 15 years.
Scheduling was the main roadblock. Two-time GRAMMY-winning Lauderdale is an in-demand writer and collaborator whose songs have been recorded by artists such as George Strait, Patty Loveless, George Jones, the Dixie Chicks, Blake Shelton, Lucinda Williams, and Vince Gill. His discography includes more than 20 solo albums, including his latest bluegrass effort, Carolina Moonrise, which was released in September.
As for fellow GRAMMY winner Miller, most recently he produced GRAMMY nominee Carolina Chocolate Drops' Leaving Eden and Shawn Colvin's All Fall Down and forthcoming albums for Robert Plant's Band Of Joy and Richard Thompson, in addition to Buddy And Jim. He's also helping his wife, Julie Miller, complete another album and collaborating with T Bone Burnett on the TV series "Nashville," in which he recently appeared. Miller also co-hosts the weekly "Buddy & Jim Show" with Lauderdale on SiriusXM Radio's Outlaw Country channel, and leads the house band for the Americana Music Association's annual Americana Honors & Awards, which Lauderdale hosts.
Lauderdale will appear at the GRAMMY Museum on Dec. 11 to host a showing of The King Of Broken Hearts, a documentary about his career by filmmaker Jeremy Dylan. The film tells Lauderdale's story from his North Carolina roots to breaking through as a songwriter in Nashville. In advance of the screening, Lauderdale discussed his relationship with Miller, the creative process for Buddy And Jim, and some of the greatest nights of his life, among other topics.
You and Buddy Miller have known each other a long time.
About 32 years. He's one of my oldest, dearest friends. I'm just so happy for all that's going on for him. He's just one of the most in-demand producers, guitar players, singers, and writers out there. To me, he's a king.
How long did it take to get Buddy And Jim together?
Putting the album together didn't take that long. But just us getting our schedules together — we've been talking about this for I can't even remember how many years.
What finally made it happen?
It helped when we started doing our radio show together. Then we were sittin' across from each other and started talkin' about it again. And then Buddy's label, New West, said, "You guys should go ahead and do it." We had a vague timeline, but they wanted us to do it sooner. So we just knocked it out.
In three days. That's pretty quick, and you were writing along the way.
Yeah, it was real quick. Buddy's just such a master producer, we didn't really have to belabor much.
How did you select the songs that made it on?
I wanted us to write some new ones together and then we revisited one of our old ones we wrote with Julie called "Looking For A Heartache Like You" that I'd wanted for Buddy and I to sing as a duet. Then there was one of mine called "Forever And A Day" that I'd written with Frank Dycus. Gary Allan had recorded it several years ago, but I'd never recorded it, so we sang that as a duet. And I had asked Buddy for some song ideas. So he gave me a couple and they became "I Lost My Job Of Loving You" and "That's Not Even Why I Love You." I wrote "Vampire Girl" at home. All three of those, I was workin' on the night before we started, and the first night. Buddy had played with this idea of Julie's called "It Hurts Me," and she finished it off by our last day of recording. So that was a brand-new one for her. I'm such a big fan of hers.
You've collaborated with legends from Ralph Stanley to Elvis Costello and now you're screening a documentary about your career. Do you ever shake your head in wonder at how it's turned out?
I wanted to have record deals and go out and tour since I was a teenager, but it took a long time for things to start happening. So for a while, I was playing catch-up, putting out a couple of records a year. This year I recorded five. I've got another collaboration with Robert Hunter I did with the North Mississippi Allstars, Spooner Oldham and David Hood. I did a record in England with Nick Lowe's band, and another with James Burton and Al Perkins. We had done a record before. So I've got a bunch of stuff in the can; I just need to put it out at the right times.
How did the radio show come about?
Buddy mentioned it to me, and I just jumped at it. First of all, I get to spend more time with him, and it's just real inspiring for me to be around him. He's full of music, and he knows so much about so many artists and songs. One thing I really like is that we get to have some of our heroes come in and do interviews and play whatever they want to [or] spin some of their favorite records. It's really rewarding to hear that.
You also host the Americana Honors & Awards every year. Is it still fun?
Oh, yeah, it's still fun and it's still a big adrenaline rush. It's amazing to rub elbows with all the great artists standing around backstage waiting to go on. And Buddy always puts such a great band together and does such a terrific job.
Does anything stand out in your mind about the nights you won your two GRAMMYs?
Those were some of the greatest nights of my life. It was just real awe-inspiring, even the [Pre-Telecast] awards. Then going to the [GRAMMY telecast] and seeing so many of your heroes, and so many people that are such vital movers and shakers and have created such great music, is pretty surreal.
Do you ever have any time off?
No, not much, no, I really don't. One of these days, I'll chill out.
(Austin-based journalist Lynne Margolis currently contributes to American Songwriter, NPR's Song of the Day and newspapers nationwide, as well as several regional magazines and NPR-affiliate KUT-FM's "Texas Music Matters." A contributing editor to The Ties That Bind: Bruce Springsteen from A To E To Z, she has also previously written for Rollingstone.com and Paste magazine.)