Americana Hero Rodney Crowell; an interview

This post, by Joy Frank-Collins, was originally written for an appearance singer/songwriter Rodney Crowell made in Santa Fe in February 2012. Frank-Collins interviewed him via phone while he was on the road.

Some 20 years ago, legendary singer/songwriter Rodney Crowell answered the siren call of Georgia O’Keeffe and made his way to Santa Fe to mourn the loss of a marriage and contemplate his life. “I needed a different geographic vision,” said the Texas-born Crowell, who had spent time living in Tennessee and California. “The sky and the colors, the desert and high country out there just called to me.”

He spent five weeks he said, driving around New Mexico in a rented car with his guitar writing songs. In Santa Fe, Taos and Abiquiu he explored the romantic notion of an artist’s life in the high desert, in the end writing many of the songs featured on his 1992 album Life is Messy. Songs from that album just may make it into the third installment of Heath Concerts’ Songs and Stories series Saturday, February 4th at the Lensic Performing Arts Center, where Crowell is slated to perform alongside Texas mainstay “old half-assed poet idiot savant slide player” Ray Wylie Hubbard and the newly minted Americana golden child Hayes Carll.

Rodney Crowell will be in Santa Fe

Rodney Crowell to appear with Ray Wylie Hubbard and Hayes Carll in Santa Fe, photo/Alan Messer

Crowell will be “filling in” for legendary songwriter Guy Clark, who is recovering from an illness that forced him to back out of the show. “Guy is my longtime dear friend and it is my honor to do this for him,” Crowell said. He lists Clark as one of his influences, “One of the first and foremost things I learned from Guy Clark was self-editing. I’ve seen him throw away lines that other songwriters would have slashed their wrists over, but if it wasn’t the one he needed it did him no good.”

That lesson, as well as those he learned from men like Townes Van Zandt, Mickey Newberry, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Waylon Jennings and his former father-in-law Johnny Cash shaped Crowell’s career and guided him along the way. “I came to Nashville in a beat up car with a friend. We slept outside until it got too cold,” he said of his foray into the music business. He described the scene as a post-Kris Kristofferson-era where the poetic side of writing had found its way to Nashville, paving the way for many talented artists to get noticed. “I don’t know if I fell in by luck of the draw or destiny,” he added.

To date, he has released 21 albums since his 1978 debut Ain’t Living Long Like This, a title which seems to encompass his humble opinion of his status as an Americana music legend and the inspiration of a generation of musicians across all genres. Along the way, Crowell achieved commercial success as a major label artist out of Nashville scoring five number one songs from his Diamonds and Dirt album, a Grammy award and induction into the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. His most recent project was his memoir, Chinaberry Sidewalks, released in 2011 preceded by the critically-acclaimed album Sex and Gasoline.

Taking the format of the Songs and Stories series to heart, Crowell said he’ll take his cues from the audience, as he always does, on what songs to play and what stories he’ll tell. “I believe that I am there to fill up a space with songs that matter to the audience,” he said. “I really like those nights when you can see faces, you can look someone right in the eye and say, ‘I bet this person would like to hear this song.’ That’s been my MO over the years, to see who the people are and then we’ll see what they want to hear.”

While the Lensic may not provide the intimacy that will allow Crowell the opportunity to focus on the audience one-by-one, chances are good that the memories from time spent contemplating life and love in a special place called Santa Fe will provide more than enough inspiration for Crowell on Saturday.


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3 Responses to “Americana Hero Rodney Crowell; an interview”

  1. Charles Higgins
    January 31, 2019 at 5:11 pm #

    Always enjoyed this guy’s music, particularly the lyrics. Was unaware of his New Mexico history..thanks..


    • Bunny Terry
      February 1, 2019 at 9:06 am #

      Love Rodney Crowell, but had tickets to see Guy Clark. . .any plans to get him back for a show?

      • Steve Collins
        February 1, 2019 at 9:35 pm #

        Hi, Bunny
        Hope you’re still coming. Don’t know status of Guy Clark. I’m with you. I love Guy Clark. I’d check with the promoter I’m looking forward to the show. Rodney Crowell, Ray Wylie Hubbard Hayes Carll. Plus it’s a great format. You’re guaranteed to see a great show. The other two shows in the series were fabulous!

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