A Conversation with Anne McCue
Puremusic: So, Anne, although our review some time back revealed us as Anne fans, the real reason we take the opportunity today to interview you is the interesting tale of the series of events that have taken place since you started playing in America. Where does that story begin?
AM: Well, it begins with--I was in a group, and we were signed to a label in New York. So he brought us out to California, and we recorded an album with David Kershenbaum, who did the Tracy Chapman albums.
AM: And it was a little overproduced for my liking. But that was okay. It got sold to Columbia. The album and our group got sold to Columbia Records in New York.
PM: And that group was called?
AM: Eden AKA. We played on the Lilith Fair, and that's where Columbia saw us play. So we were signed over to them. And then two years later, we were still waiting for the record to come out. And I was getting pretty frustrated, because I'm a songwriter, and I wasn't really contributing songs.
PM: Oh, you weren't allowed to contribute songs?
AM: Contractually, no.
PM: Contractually. Oh my lord.
AM: Contractually, I was allowed to contribute one song to the album.
PM: That's miserable.
AM: [laughs] Yeah. Well, I agreed to the terms. So after two years I felt, "Well, I gave this two years, and nothing's really happening." The record hadn't come out. Then I was offered a deal in Canada with a label called Relentless Records. So I finished my album--I'd already started it two years previously. We finished that album in L.A. It was released in Canada, but not in America. It was supposed to be released here. And that label has since folded. So I got the record back, and here I am. I'm just sort of playing gigs and selling it.
I came to Nashville to play here. And a mutual fan of mine and Lucinda Williams--well, he actually saw me by accident in L.A., and then he used to come to all my gigs--he gave her my CD. And he's been seeing Lucinda play for twenty years, like. As she says, "He used to come and see me play when no one else would."
PM: [laughs] And she did a very good Lucinda impression right there.
AM: [laughs] And so anyway, he gave her the CD. And she listened to it, and she liked it. So when I came to play in Nashville, she came and saw me play at the Basement here. And then she said, "Do you want to come and play, and open for me on the tour?"
PM: That had to knock you right on your keister, right?
AM: Yeah. [laughs] I used to play Lucinda's songs in Melbourne, Australia. Years ago, I was in a band called the Creatures From The Blues Lagoon. There were two female guitarists, and the other girl, Fiona Boise, would play Zydeco and a little more rootsy sort of blues. And I would play country blues, like Lucinda Williams. And then I'd do some Ray Charles, or my own blues songs. So there I was, years later, and here Lucinda is watching me play, and then I'm playing with her on a tour. So I'm pretty excited.
PM: And no less than twenty-three days, is what I've heard.
PM: That's amazing. I mean, I know a couple of people that went out and opened a Lucinda show, a few shows. But twenty-three shows, that's a horse of a different color.
AM: Well, it's pretty great. And I was playing solo, so it was a little trepidatious, if that's a word, at the start.
PM: Well, I think it should be. I don't know that it is, but we're coining it.
AM: [laughs] But the audiences were so great, such great audiences, really. Her audience, they really know how to be an audience. So I felt very welcome, and it was fun, you know.
PM: And I would imagine that those are some pretty damn good venues.
AM: Beautiful theaters, like the Orpheum in Boston. The Paramount in Seattle. Mainly it was the west half of the U.S., but then we did Boston, Ohio, and Toronto.
PM: And did you get friendly with Lucinda at all? Was that possible? Sometimes the opener and the main act just don't have that much contact.
AM: Well, you know, [laughs] Lucinda really took me under her wing.
PM: She did?
AM: Yeah. I don't know, she's like a guardian angel or something [laughs], to me.
PM: Wow. So you got on really good?
AM: Yeah, I would describe it like that. No one could have been nicer to me than Lucinda was, actually. She was just really good to me.
PM: Did you get to write a song together?
PM: Not yet.
AM: Neither of us really does a lot of co-writing. But obviously, it would be fun. But when you're on tour, you don't really get to sit down and play together, you know, because it's a bit of a crazy schedule.
PM: Was Lucinda doing a full band thing when you were opening for her? Did she have Bo Ramsey with her, for instance?
AM: Yeah. I went out in December, and she had Bo Ramsey and Doug Pettibone, Taras on the bass, and Don Heffington on the drums.
PM: Oh, I love Don Heffington.
AM: Yeah. And Phil Parlappiano on piano and keyboards. And then the year after, she changed over to Bernie Larson on guitar and Jimmy Christie on the drums.
PM: You know, just the way that you reel off the names of the players, it really distinguishes you to me as a real player, far from a front person or a singer/songwriter with a band.
AM: [laughs] They are all great musicians, too, obviously. Getting to see them play every night was really good for my head, my musical brain cells.
PM: Did you ever get to sing backup in her act or--
AM: No, no I didn't. [laughs] They all sing, Doug and Phil and--
PM: Oh, yeah.
AM: You know, they've got it all organized. continue