For singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams, there’s apparently nothing like love and death to set fire to the muse.Early in her career, Williams famously toiled over songs or in the studio for years before judging new work ready for release. Now, in little more than two years, she’s released two double albums, 34 songs and more than three hours of music that’s been heralded as some of her best ever.Some of that she attributes to the steadiness she’s felt in her life since she fell in love and married her manager, Tom Overby, in 2009. But a lot also flows from the flood of feelings that surfaced after the deaths of her parents in recent years.
“But what I was saying, it’s kind of like bookends, because I lost my mother in 2004, and then almost 10 years later, my dad,” she says. 1. “I hate to go back to death and loss, but God knows it’s been such a year,” says Williams, 63, who comes to the Troubadour in West Hollywood for four shows Jan. 29-Feb. “So in between that it just catapulted things.“People ask me all the time, ‘How come all of a sudden you’re more prolific?’ I don’t know if it’s actually the case or it’s a combination of experiencing that loss. There’s always been things to write about, but I think maybe it’s gaining more experience as a songwriter, gaining more confidence.”
The road it references runs from South Carolina to Texas, tracing the land in which this Louisiana native was raised and traveled. “The Ghosts of Highway 20,” the most recent of those albums, is especially drawn from the colors of people and places past. But its heart lies with the people she’s known there, and none casts a bigger shadow than her father, Miller Williams, a former poet laureate of the United States.Two years after his death, when asked how it’s been, Williams takes a deep breath and says, “Not easy, not easy.” Because her mother long struggled with mental illness, her father had always been her rock, she explains.
That’s how I learned to write, was learning how to edit.” Not until after 2001’s album “Essence” did she stop sending him all of them before she headed into the studio to record them, Williams says.“I wanted his approval,” she says. He would say, ‘You don’t need that word.’ He was a great editor. “Because I couldn’t even imagine. “I mean, I just remember thinking when I was younger, I don’t even want to think about losing my dad,” Williams says. “I want to make sure, like, ‘Is there anything you see here that could be improved upon?’ ’Cause that’s how I learned over the years. We were just really, really close, you know?”For years as a young songwriter, she would send him songs she was working on. They wouldn’t be big things. From a very, very, very young age I bonded with him.