MM: I think I read how you just kind of went in with this group and were like‚ "Here. It is what it is." And the people you played with really got the vibe of each song.
BL: They were phenomenal. Evan found them‚ and I trust Evan. They came in and just did exactly what I wanted. It was incredible. It wasn't even that they did what I wanted them to do. It was that I didn't really direct them to do anything. I just said‚ "I want upright bass. I think I hear it on these songs. Do you agree? I want dobro and banjo. What do you hear them on?" They all came in and were like‚ "Yeah‚ here's what I think." On every record I put out in the future - and that I have put out in the past - I want to be able to really trust my musicians and have them put their personalities into it.
MM: Yeah. I think that comes across. That works‚ but at the same time‚ it feels very live‚ like you couldn't recreate this. You can almost smell the room when it was happening - that kind of feeling. It's not over-manufactured at all.
BL: Yeah. I like Radiator and all‚ and I was really proud of it when it came out‚ but I really wanted something different than that. I think Radiator has more of the produced sounds‚ in that it's a studio album‚ and I wanted something a little more down to earth with this one.
MM: In a way‚ it represents what you've been doing. You've been living these songs on the road.
BL: And I kind of feel like I'm owning up to my Americana thing finally. People have told me I'm Americana in the past‚ and I've been like‚ "Whatever!" [laughter] But now I'm like‚ "Oh‚ yeah‚ I kind of like this! I am Americana!"
MM: Well‚ let's talk about some of the songs‚ just the process. Where did some of these songs come from?
BL: Either my own life and challenges and stories‚ or a lot of them come from trying to understand other people more‚ trying to understand the world. If I put their story down in a song‚ maybe I can understand their story a little better. I spent a lot of time with these stories. Even if the song comes out really fast‚ the first few dozen times I play the song‚ I'm trying to understand their story more. I write a lot of songs about other people‚ and they're like‚ "That's about me?" And I'm totally off the mark. But I'm trying.
MM: I was looking at the artwork on the album‚ like the old house….
BL: My friend Shannon did all of those photos in South Dakota. We were going to go out to that house‚ but we never got the chance.
MM: What's the significance of it?
BL: I don't know. I just felt like it fit. I've always been obsessed with broken-down beautiful things. And so I felt like it fit with this sound.
MM: I think it's like that theme of whatever this may be‚ we still have the back porch‚ we still have music‚ we still have each other. I hear a lot of those themes come up. One of the lines I heard when I was listening to the record earlier was something like‚ "We ain't rich‚ but we sure are wealthy."
BL: Someone said something about my songs once that I didn't realize about them. He said that the songs were telling us not to feel down‚ but at the same time‚ it's OK to feel down. I kind of like that. Sure‚ life sucks sometimes‚ but it's not the end of the world‚ and we are going to get through it. I like that I put a happy song on the record too. [laughter]
MM: What's the happy song?
BL: "So What."
MM: You know‚ I almost lost you on that song. But then I heard a line in there today that I thought was brilliant: "You're the sunlight on the bridges I've burned." I think everyone can relate to that.
BL: It's certainly hit or miss with that song with some people. Some people are like‚ "Yeah‚ yeah‚ yeah. I like it." And other people are like‚ "That's my favorite!" I've played it at weddings‚ and I'm playing it at weddings this summer. It's kind of cute. Both Evan and I were apprehensive about putting that on the album‚ but I'm glad that we did.
MM: I agree now in terms of flow and the overall story. It seems to really work‚ and I think it would throw off the story if it wasn't in there to be a part of the ebb and flow of things. "True North" is an interesting one too. I really connected with that one right away because it has that reflective, "My Back Pages" kind of feeling. What's your take on that? What were you going for?
BL: Well‚ I wrote it after reading The Valkyries by Paulo Coelho‚ so it has some of that imagery in it from the book. Paulo Coelho wrote The Alchemist‚ and his books are sort of written the same way. I grew up Catholic‚ and I've always struggled with my faith. I also wrote it when I was stuck in a hotel room in South Dakota for two nights‚ on my way back from tour. So I think that the space that I was in: I was stuck‚ I was reading‚ I was pensive. And also faith enters into a lot of my songs‚ even if it's not totally right up in front in the lyrics.