Lucinda Williams is, without doubt, a musician’s musician. A favorite collaborator and inspiration for artists like Elvis Costello, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Don Henley, and Willie Nelson, Williams is a three-time Grammy Award winner who changed the face of the Americana genre with her celebrated 1998 album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. On September 20, Williams will be taking the stage along with her band, Buick 6, at Port Chester’s Capitol Theatre to celebrate Car Wheels. We caught up with the iconic singer/songwriter to get a sense of where she currently stands and what lies ahead.
Tell us a bit about your current tour.
We started out just doing a handful of [performances] and ended up adding some more because the promoters were calling and going, ‘Hey, we keep hearing about these Car Wheels shows. Can you come here and do one?’
We just did a couple of weeks’ worth of shows on the West Coast, because we hadn’t done any out there yet. The main difference with the Car Wheels shows is I talk more in depth about the songs and about writing them. I always did that a little bit, but I go more into it since it seems that’s what people really want.
How did you first become attracted to music?
My mother was a musician. She studied piano. She was a music major at [Louisiana State University] when she met my dad. But she had studied piano since she was about 4 years old. So, there was always a piano in the house and sheet music and everything. So, I was drawn to it at an early age. I would always sit at the piano and fiddle around and stuff.
I tried to take piano lessons, but I didn’t like the teacher. I just remember there was something weird about him, and I guess I wasn’t very patient with that. I wish to God now, though, that I knew how to play. I wish I had stayed with it. My brother did. He learned piano. It kind of runs in our genes, I think.
How does it feel to be viewed as a pioneer for women in music?
When you’re a pioneer, you don’t necessarily see yourself that way. I’m always really flattered and pleased when younger girls look up to me or tell me how influential I am. I think, Oh yeah, right: I’m this age, and I’ve been doing it this long.
But I don’t go around thinking that consciously. Even during the big feminism movement of the ’70s, I felt we shouldn’t have awards like “female drummer” or “woman songwriter,” and just say “drummer” or “songwriter.”
What do you find yourself writing about nowadays?
I think about that a lot and I talk about it in concert now. I talk about there being a well, and pain and suffering and memories are all in this well. All I have to do is dig my hand in and pull something out. All of that stuff is still there — the memories. It started when I met Tom [Overby], and we got engaged, moved in together, and got married.
People have this idea that you write all these unrequited love songs — the “Oh, I lost my baby, and I feel so bad” kind of thing — then you find your soulmate, and then there’s nothing left to write about. So, I had to start explaining that I’m an artist first. You don’t just stop. Nobody is happy 24 hours a day anyway.
What are you currently working on?
I’ve got a bunch of new songs. One of them is called “Man Without a Soul.” You can guess who that would be about. I just finished another new song for this film called Lost Girls. It’s a beautiful true-crime documentary for Netflix. They called them The Long Island Murders.
They never did find the serial killer, and the story is based on the mother of one of the girls trying to find her daughter.