A Night With John Hiatt

Genre-spanning artist discusses songwriting and his latest album, Dirty Jeans And Mudslide Hymns
  • Photo: Paul Moore
    John Hiatt
September 26, 2011 -- 12:03 pm PDT

Multigenre specialist John Hiatt was the featured guest for a recent installment of the GRAMMY Museum's An Evening With series. In an intimate interview setting, Hiatt discussed songwriting and his new album, Dirty Jeans And Mudslide Hymns, among other topics. Following the interview, Hiatt took questions from the audience and performed a brief set, including "Your Dad Did" from his 1987 album Bring The Family, and "'Til I Get My Lovin' Back" and "Train To Birmingham" from Dirty Jeans And Mudslide Hymns.

"I like to write things that have a story," said Hiatt regarding his songwriting process. "My lyrics are the last thing I get to. It's always the music [that comes first]."

With a career that has spanned folk, blues, country, pop and rock, the Indianapolis-born Hiatt was initially inspired by artists such as the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. After his high school graduation, Hiatt moved to Nashville and worked as a songwriter for Tree Publishing. His songs were recorded by artists such as Conway Twitty, Tracy Nelson and Three Dog Night — "Sure As I'm Sittin' Here," recorded by the latter, reached No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1974. Hiatt moved to California and signed a record deal with MCA, where he recorded two new wave-influenced albums, 1979's Slug Line and 1980's Two Bit Monsters. Though the albums garnered critical acclaim, they failed to dent the album chart and Hiatt was dropped. Following a stint in Ry Cooder's band, Hiatt signed with Geffen Records, recording three albums and teaming with producers such as Tony Visconti, Nick Lowe and Ron Nagel. Changing labels again, Hiatt released Bring The Family in 1987 on A&M Records. Featuring Lowe on bass and Cooder on guitar, the album served as Hiatt's chart breakthrough, reaching No. 107 on the Billboard 200 and spawning the Top 30 Mainstream Rock chart hit "Thank You Girl." The album's "Thing Called Love" also became a Mainstream Rock hit for Bonnie Raitt. In 1989 Hiatt's "She Don't Love Nobody," recorded by the Desert Rose Band, earned him his first GRAMMY nomination for Best Country Song. A variety of artists have gone on to cover Hiatt's songs, including Eric Clapton, Jewel, Jimmy Buffett, and Emmylou Harris, among others.

Hiatt recorded a string of albums for A&M, including 1993's Perfectly Good Guitar, which peaked at No. 47 on the Billboard 200. In 2000 Hiatt released the acoustic-based Crossing Muddy Waters on Vanguard Records. The album reached No. 2 on Billboard's Blues Albums chart and earned a GRAMMY nod for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Following 2010's The Open Road, Dirty Jeans And Mudslide Hymns was released in August on New West Records, reaching No. 13 on Billboard's Rock Albums chart. In its 3.5 star album review, Rolling Stone described Hiatt's songwriting as being "as sharp as ever."

Upcoming GRAMMY Museum events include An Evening With Blind Boys Of Alabama (Sept. 28), An Evening With Edgar Winter (Oct. 12), An Evening With Thomas Dolby (Oct. 17), and Great Guitars: Steve Lukather (Oct. 24).

For more information on the GRAMMY Museum, visit www.grammymuseum.org.

Click on the "GRAMMY Museum events" tag below for links to other GRAMMY News stories in this series.

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