Catching up with Lyle Lovett before Beaver Creek performance on June 29

Alan Sculley
Last Word Features
Coupled with his gift for storytelling, Lyle Lovett fuses elements of country, swing, jazz, folk, gospel and blues in a convention-defying manner that breaks down barriers.
Michael Wilson/Courtesy photo
  • What: An Evening with Lyle Lovett and His Large Band
  • When: Thursday, June 29 at 7 p.m.
  • Where: The Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek
  • Tickets and more info:

Lyle Lovett recently released “12th of June,” his first album of original material in 10 years. In yet another example of the pandemic getting in the way of best-laid plans, Lovett had things all lined up for a much earlier arrival of his latest batch of music.

“We recorded these tracks in November of 2019 with the idea of finishing them in March of 2020,” Lovett said in a recent phone interview. “I did an acoustic group tour that started in January and ended up on the seventh of March that year. I was going to spend the rest of the month working on the record and finishing it for a 2020 release. And of course, that did not happen.”

While Lovett did at least get to join his Large Band in the studio and record the basic tracks for “12th of June,” the pandemic had a huge effect on the work required from that point forward to finish the album.

“My recording process is such that I’m usually in the room for every playback and every change,” Lovett said. “Part of making a record is getting to be in the room and getting to work (in person) with your producer and recording engineer — and with the musicians, of course, which I got to do on this one. But the post-production is a very important part of the record and a very important part of enjoying making a record. So I hope we don’t ever have to make a record in isolation again.”

Lovett made the best of a bad situation by utilizing e-mail to listen to mixes and then e-mailing back suggestions.

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“Chuck Ainlay, my producer in Nashville, would go through tracks and mix, and go through as we made edits and changes. He would e-mail me everything he was doing and then I would listen on my own,” Lovett said. “It was just not the same. The back and forth is just not as much fun, really, because a decision that would take five minutes to make in the studio would end up being two or three days by e-mail. So it slowed everything down immensely. It’s just not as much fun listening and analyzing something all by yourself as it is working with people. So I missed the interaction. I missed the humanity in making the record, and it felt more, in the context of being isolated from the world anyway, it added to that feeling of isolation rather than helped to diminish it.”

In the end, Lovett got to work in person with Ainlay in putting the finishing touches on “12th of June,” but it was early in 2022 before that happened.

“In January, I played my first live dates in public (since the pandemic) on the 25th of January. That was in Orlando,” Lovett said. “And I felt, well, as long as I’m out and exposed, and as long as Chuck would let me be in the room with him, I would go to Nashville. We sat together. We spent a couple of 14-hour days in his mixing room and we finished the record in those two days. So it ended up being fun and it ended up being the kind of experience I’m used to. But it did take that finally getting together to accomplish that.”

So better late than never, fans of Lovett finally have new music to enjoy. And while Lovett, one of music’s finest and most literate songwriters, has done his share of excellent albums that lean toward country and feature a good bit of acoustic instrumentation (think his second album, 1987’s “Pontiac,” 1992’s “Joshua Judges Ruth” or 2012’s “Release Me”), “12th of June” is his third studio album to be billed with his Large Band.

With this 14-member ensemble of talented musicians, Lovett is able to greatly expand his musical reach. That’s obvious right from the start of “12th of June,” which opens with a version of jazz great Horace Silver’s “Cookin’ at the Continental,” a lively instrumental that lets the Large Band showcase their considerable chops. Three duets with Lovett’s long-time vocal counterpart, Francine Reed, further cement the jazz credentials of all involved as they tackle two songs associated with Nat “King” Cole, the peppy “Straighten Up & Fly Right,” the bluesy ballad “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You,” as well as the David Frishberg-panned standard “Peel Me A Grape,”  

Lovett’s more country-leaning sound emerges on the ballads “Her Loving Man,” “The Mocking Ones” and the title track, while “Pig Meat Man” puts a bit of soul and blues into the mix and “Are We Dancing” adds a string-laden ballad that is rooted in the pre-rock and roll era.

The long gap between “12th of June” and Lovett’s previous album, 2012’s “Release Me,” was largely the product of being between record deals and needing time to figure out how he wanted to release his next collection of songs, coupled with a major development in Lovett’s personal life – his marriage to long-time girlfriend April Kimble in 2017, followed by the birth of the couple’s twins. Along with touring commitments – Lovett tends to play around 100 concerts during normal years – these factors absorbed a lot of time over the past decade.

As someone who always wanted to have kids, Lovett, now 65, is relishing his life as a husband and father.

“I always imagined having children. Then I got to a point I thought I guess I probably won’t have children,” Lovett said. “I always thought I wanted (kids), but I had no idea, I just had no idea how much I’d enjoy it. It really has been a miraculous experience. I know other people have had children before. I’m not the only one. But it does sort of feel that way when you’re going through it yourself. It’s just something that you have to experience to be able to understand what it’s like.”

Marriage and fatherhood figure prominently into the lyrics of the original songs on “12th of June.” “Her Loving Man” is a sweet tribute to Kimble and her intelligence, wisdom and warmth. The title song is a touching tune that imagines a father carrying his love for his wife and children into the next life. Lovett applies his trademark wry humor to “Pants is Overrated,” which was inspired one day when his children were resisting the idea of getting dressed, and to “Pig Meat Man,” an ode to pork.

“I did focus on these particular songs and wanted it really to represent this part of my life because it really is the main thing going on for me,” Lovett said. “I thought, of (the) subjects I can authentically represent, that (fatherhood) really is the best one right now. And it’s important to me. I hope one day when my children are old enough to understand those songs and understand what they’re about that they will take from that, that their dad loved them. That’s all I really care about.”

Lovett is looking forward to sharing the songs and messages of his new songs on tour with his Large Band this summer.

“We’ll play material from across my catalog, but we will definitely feature material from this (new) album,” he said. “It’s always fun to have a new record out and it’s always fun to have a reason to play those newly recorded songs.”

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