The Jesus of Cool comes to save Birmingham
By Andy Harris
You might know him as the Jesus of Cool. The Basher. Punkier and Prouder Than Previous, he’s the Patriarchal Proto Papa Prince of Pure Pink Pub Pop. He married June Carter Cash’s daughter, Carlene, and went on to write songs that Johnny Cash recorded. He gave the world its first Rick Roll in 1990 with the song and video for “All Men Are Liars.” He produced or co-produced Elvis Costello’s first seven albums. He’s been making Americans squirm for over forty years. It’s slimy and slippery, but it feels so right! He’s The Abominable Showman. He’s Nick Lowe and he’s the best classic songwriter on the planet. As the world’s greatest, Lowe has decided to leave the band at home for the winter and bring his Party of One to the BJCC Forum Theater on October 21st. An evening of the old magic is guaranteed.
I caught up with Nick Lowe via Skype phone call. He was just chilling at home in London, spending the evening talking to a lot of press bozos.
“I was just talking to a lady who’s writing a book,” says Lowe, “instigated by Daryl Hall, about musicians who like to cook and the similarities between cooking and making music. She’s writing this book and for some reason Daryl put my name forward and she was very keen to talk about it. I was rather surprised when she wanted to talk to me because Daryl had told her that I somehow knew something about cooking. I don’t know that much about it. I can cook a little bit. I mean the days when men couldn’t knock up something in the kitchen at all, boil an egg–I think those days are long gone, aren’t they? Practically everybody I know can do a few things.”
Dear reader – don’t you want to know what’s on the menu at the Lowe household?
“Well, I eat a lot of Italian food over here. I love Italian food. It’s pretty easy to get a fantastic result with very few ingredients. You can get a great result and impress people. As long as you’ve got good ingredients, as long as they’re all really good, you know you really can’t go wrong. So I eat a lot of that stuff. But the trouble is, I’ve got a little boy who’s only eleven. He doesn’t like certain things. He’s not bad about eating his food but he doesn’t like a lot of things. For instance, he’s got an irrational dislike of tomatoes. That hobbles you somewhat when it comes to Italian food.”
An eleven year old who doesn’t like tomatoes. I think we know why Nick Lowe likes to tour so much and why he’s doing it solo these days.
“Yeah. I do these solo tours most of the time now, but I’m very well aware that people tend to roll their eyes and think, ‘Oh, god. Here comes another old geezer with an acoustic guitar. Knocking out his old tunes.’ I’m very aware that people are a bit skeptical about it. I try and do my shows like an old-fashioned pop show really, because my songs are all pretty short. I can do a lot of tunes. I like to talk to the audience and have a little chat with them and everything. I like to keep it fast moving, one after the other. It’s quite good fun. I do the songs that I’m known for and the ones that are a bit more obscure, I make sure that they work well in that setting. People do seem to enjoy it.”
When asked about free time on the road, Lowe turned the conversation back to food.
“On the down time, I try and feed myself. I have a lot of trouble eating on the road because I can’t seem to get the food I want at the time I want it. On full days off, I’ll try and find a really good restaurant. And I don’t mind traveling. I’ll take some time to go get myself a really good meal. I tend to have a big breakfast most of the time, but I can’t have anything before I play my show. For one reason, as soon as I feel satisfied, not full, but like I’ve had a decent meal, I just want to put my feet up and watch TV. I don’t feel very vibrant. Mister Entertainment. And the other thing is, I tend to burp and belch through the microphone, which is not very sexy. So I can’t eat before the show. And afterwards, well, frankly, I just wanna have a couple of drinks and relax and sort of talk to people and things like that.”
“I like to keep it fast moving, one after the other. It’s quite good fun.”
And what about a new album? Is Nick the Knife writing any new songs or recording currently?
“I’m not really recording. I’m still writing songs. Unfortunately, a real good friend of mine who played drums with me for years and years and years died last year. He’s left quite a hole really, because he was much more than just the drummer. He was a kind of taste man. He was great when we used to make the records. He was really good when I was writing songs–I would play him a new song and I could tell. He would just move his eyebrow a little bit and I just knew that he didn’t like it or didn’t like that bit. I always felt very lucky that I knew somebody like that and he would let me know.
“Also, I’m not really that interested in making records right now, although I’m still writing songs. In fact, I’ve started going to Nashville and writing with people there. After I finish this little tour that we’re talking about, I’m going to go off and do some more. I really do enjoy that. I didn’t think I would, writing songs with people I’d never met before. Going off into a room with someone I’d never met before and seeing what happens. I always thought that was kind of terrifying but I rather enjoy it. Sometimes nothing happens but it’s always an interesting experience. So I’m still writing songs. I’ll get around to recording them at some point but I’m not really in any great tearing hurry to do it.”
Records don’t sell like they used to, anyway.
“I suppose not. Also, I’ve made so many records now that I’m not exactly gonna start, you know, playing with a Peruvian nose flute or do something way out of what I’ve ever done before. I do just the same stuff every time really. Until I can come up with a new way of presenting it, I don’t really want to do that same thing. I love doing these solo tours because I can do some of these new songs and try them out and see if they ring a bell with audiences. If they do, then I stick them in a back pocket I’ve got. I’ve got a few in there, about five or six good songs. I’ve written way more than that, but I don’t think they’re much good. I’m much choosier now about the stuff I do. If it works, if you stand up with an acoustic guitar, and you can get an audience to get with a new song they’ve never heard before, and they can tell that it works on a lot of different levels, then you’re on to something. As I said, I’ll stick it in my back pocket and when the time comes, I’ll knock out a new record. I’m not in any hurry to do that right now.”
Hanging out in Nashville these days, eh? I guess that means we can all expect the next Nick Lowe album to include a few songs about trucks and jeans and rolling the windows down.
“No. You know, those people seem to be immune to my charms. But Nashville is an absolutely jumping scene as you probably know. There’s all sorts of music going on there. I’ve been doing all sorts of things there from straight country to R&B stuff to even pop. They like having people of my vintage involved in it there. They don’t seem to have any kind of ageism, you know, ‘Move over Granddad. What do you know about it?’ That doesn’t seem to operate there. They figure that if you’re into it, that’s all that matters.”
Nick Lowe plays The BJCC Forum Theater on Friday, October 21st
Doors 7pm / Showtime 8pm / $30
Josh Rouse opens