A CONVERSATION WITH SONNY LANDRETH
Puremusic: Hi. Is this Sonny?
Sonny Landreth: Uh-huh.
PM: Hi, Sonny, this is Frank Goodman from Puremusic.com in Nashville.
SL: Hey, Frank, how are you doing?
PM: All right, man. How's your day going?
SL: Oh, it's going pretty crazy, but you know, it's going.
PM: Yeah, right, I'm there. I don't think you and I ever met, but some of your closest and oldest friends we have in common, because I'm a Nashville guy. In fact, it must have been when you were doing Outward Bound in the early '90s, I was the Boogie rep in town at the time. And somebody came to borrow a 2x12 cabinet for--
SL: Yeah, we sure did, right. I ended up ordering one.
PM: You did.
SL: Did you drop it by the studio, or you had it sent over there?
PM: I was trying to remember. Gee, I don't think I got to meet you that day. Either somebody picked it up or I brought it over.
SL: That's wild, that was like '91.
PM: Yeah, so although we haven't met, our connection goes back ten years. And Sam Broussard and I are old buddies.
SL: I just saw him a little while ago.
SL: Yeah. He plays with Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys. [a legendary Cajun outfit worldwide]
SL: And they're in the studio just getting ready to start up today cutting some new tracks.
PM: He's a magic dude.
SL: I'm telling you, he's something else.
PM: [Keyboardist extraordinaire] Steve Conn and I are just acquainted, and Mike Organ [great drummer, on Levee Town] is a buddy of mine.
SL: Oh, yeah.
PM: Cliff and Dennis and--[they used to manage Sonny, Cliff Audretch works with SONY and Dennis Lord is a bigwig over at SESAC, wrote Travis Tritt's first hit besides...]
SL: You're right, that's some of my best friends there.
PM: Yeah. So by association alone, we're acquainted. In fact, I got off the phone just a little while ago with Cliff Audretch, and we were talking all about you. And I said, "Well, help me think of things that I may not think to ask Sonny, or tell me things that only you would know."
SL: Uh-oh. I'm in trouble.
PM: He didn't go as far as down that road as I hoped, because I guess discretion is the better part of corporate valor. But he did bring up a thing or two that I found enlightening. For one thing, he said that although a lot is made of your pretty awesome guitar playing, that not enough is really said about what a great singer you are, and especially your songwriting, with which you take slow and painstaking care.
SL: To me, the writing part is the most important aspect of it all. You can have all the chops in the world, but if you don't have anything to say with it, then the music part is just a lot more of the same, for sure.
PM: Yeah, because there are a lot of great guitar players out there.
PM: Even though you're one of the very best ones. Still, it's about a great song, I agree.
SL: Sure. The story songs of the blues players who were my role models, and how they would use a guitar or their instruments as if they're a mini soundtrack for the lyrics of the song, that had an impact on me early on.
PM: That's a great picture, the "mini soundtrack" for their stories. You take a long time between records to write the songs.
SL: I have. But give me credit for the fact that the new album--I actually did it within a year and a half, even though by the time we put it out it was going on two years. And I just got fired up with these blues tunes, and I wrote like 17 songs in that year.
PM: Really? [It's partially funny because in Nashville, a lot of people write 50, or more.]
SL: And I've never done that before. Some of them I had started, just gotten a jump on. But for the most part, three-fourths of that at least was writing in airports, waiting between flights or at security checkpoints and the like. So I was real happy about that.
PM: You knew you were headed for a blues record?
SL: Right, it was a conscious decision. I'd been thinking about it for a long time, and I wanted to get back to that. And finally, when we decided, okay, that's what we're going to do, it's like a switch just flipped inside and these songs started pouring out, much to my delight, and others around me.
PM: No doubt.
SL: Because I haven't been known to be prolific in the past, for sure.
PM: And when you knew it was a blues record coming up, did that give you a freedom to write a little differently?
SL: Yeah, it did. There is a traditional form that I feel you must honor. And in keeping with that spirit, trying to find a new angle on old cliches or ideas that have been stated before, that's always something I've enjoyed doing anyway. And I just really got a lot of inspiration from that, and enjoyed it. I had a lot of fun. And that was big, too, keeping fun at the top of the list, from the songwriting to the actual getting into the studio and putting the tracks down, and trying to keep that live feel as well. And I think that goes with it.
PM: Yeah, fun is always at the top of my list.
SL: Fun is good, because we all--or, I can speak for myself, I tend to take myself too seriously, in the past especially. And I'm just kind of at that point now where it's like, "It's all right. We'll just blow this down. It's got a couple of clunkers in it. It happens."
PM: Those are usually my favorite parts, anyway.
SL: Exactly. And well, I was at the point of being ready to own up to that, so to speak.
PM: Yeah, I dig that. You've been with some of these guys such a long time, but especially [bassist] Ranson.
SL: Oh, yeah, Dave and I go way, way back. I first heard him in a band when I was going on 13 and he was 12, if I remember right. And he was actually playing drums in this little band. So we go way back. We jammed together over the years, and then it was the summer of 1971, towards the end of that summer going into the fall, we were all up in Colorado and had just moved back--came back to Louisiana, and wanted to put a blues band together back then. So you see, we have this recurring theme.
SL: But he and I have been working together pretty much ever since.
PM: Oh, so your Colorado years were like just after high school.
SL: Well, after college. I mean, I didn't make my four years through college. I went for two years.
PM: Where did you go?
SL: Here in Lafayette. Back then it was the University of Southwestern Louisiana. They've changed it now to University of Louisiana. And I took music and had two years. It was good. It was good for me. But once I got out into the world, and really when I decided on my path, it was more inspired by my blues heroes, and I had to unlearn some of that. But all in all, it was a good experience for me. continue