A Conversation with Preston Lovinggood

By Brent Thompson

Photo: Jay Gunning

Preston Lovinggoodsage and appearance belie the fact that he is a such a seasoned music veteran. The singer/songwriter – and former frontman of Wild Sweet Orange – has been a staple on the Birmingham music scene (and beyond) for over a decade. On May 17, Lovinggood released Consequences[Last Gang Records/eOne Music], an 11-track collection that continues to mine a unique folk/pop blend that has become his trademark. On Saturday, June 22, Lovinggood will perform at WorkPlay in a show presented by Code-R Productions. Recently, he spoke with us by phone from his Birmingham home. 

Preston, thanks for your time. We are excited about the release of Consequences.

You saying that right then almost was like the first time I realized it was actually happening because I’ve had the record for so long and everybody on the team has talked about it so much. So, to hear somebody say it objectively that’s not part of the team is like, “Oh my gosh, it really is coming out.” I got nervous! [laughs

How did the album’s material take shape?

A few of [the songs] were Wild Sweet Orange demos – the band I used to be in – so some of these songs have been around since 2008 as demo versions and ideas. I wrote some of the songs in 2010 in Nashville with some friends and then went and visited my friend Sanders Bohlke in Mississippi and finished some of these songs in 2012. There would be times of droughts where I wouldn’t be working and a lot of the songs were thrown into hibernation. My roommate really challenged me to make this record and put the songs together. 

Do songs still evolve even after you carry them into the studio to record them?

Oh yeah, absolutely. Being a solo artist, I depend a lot on the producer and engineer. I co-wrote a lot of the songs with Juan Solorzano – he’s out of Nashville and he produced the record, too. So, when we got in there the first day and did the scratch tracks and started building on top of that, a lot of the songs changed dramatically which was super cool. Some of the phrasings on the scratch tracks ended up being the melodies we ended up using.

You’re a longtime veteran of Birmingham’s music scene. Musically, the city seems to be more vibrant and active than ever. As an artist, how do you view the scene?

It’s an interesting question. It’s funny because a lot of the artistic journey can be really lonely and insular. When I was younger, I was out playing so much and hanging out with so many people and we were playing as much as we could. The first 10 years, I wanted to meet other bands and I really felt a part of it. Then it became sort of a smaller community when I met [Communicating Vessels label founder] Jeffrey Cain and smaller in a really special way. He’s kind of like a teacher and mentor to me and the community around me. I’ve played with Kate Hollingsworth since my early twenties and and then meeting her husband, Taylor, and diving into a creative journey with him really influenced me and he ended up producing one of my records. I can only know what’s happening in the music scene one-on-one with people because I went into hibernation in a way. There was a time when I was exercising the wrong muscle – it was something that I didn’t need to be exercising. Now, coming back and playing music for my fans in Birmingham has been really exciting.

How would you describe your writing process?

I know a lot of artists and it’s like we’re children in a way. I’m just sponging up all this information, all these feelings and all these stories from people I see, conversations I hear and movies I watch – just soaking it all in all the time. Usually, I get up early in the morning, have coffee and start writing. It’s usually the best time of the day. Since I built that regimen, it’s almost like clockwork – I just wait until I feel something happening inside my body. It’s almost like you have something that you know you want to get across so I wait for that muse to come. I pick up the guitar, play it and record it on a voice memo. Very rarely does a whole song come out. Usually, it’s just snippets of ideas and usually the song just starts off with melody and chords and later I’ll focus on the lyrics.

Some artists find today’s music industry exciting given the ability to self-promote and distribute music via modern outlets. Other artists say that this era makes it difficult for artists to be found among the crowd. How do you view the current climate? 

Wow – it’s a doozy. Being an artist is finding the balance between, “I’m doing this for me, but I’m also doing this for other people.” As long as I can stay in that balance, then I haven’t really cared about how everything has moved more toward a digital way. I haven’t really been affected by it because I haven’t had the success to be affected by it. I think people who made a lot of money and are now making half of that could give a greater opinion about it. My first single had about 1,000 listens, was added to several playlists and then went to 100,000 listens which is great and exciting to know that people in Belgium are listening to the song. 

Code-R Productions presents Preston Lovinggood at WorkPlay on Saturday, June 22. Showtime is 8 p.m. Advance tickets to the all-ages show are $15 and can be purchased at www.workplay.com.