On Sunday, Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen, two life-long friends, will take to the Bass Hall stage to perform a rare, acoustic song swap, kicking off a four-show run that will also take them to Galveston and College Station.
"We didn't decide to do this until after the first of the year," Lovett told me yesterday. "Robert and I had both just played Bass Hall, and to be able to come back this quickly ... the show sold out in a hurry; well, talk about a good feeling. I'm really grateful for that and excited about getting to come to Fort Worth this weekend."
The two titans of Texas music first met at Texas A&M, spending late nights on the porch of their home honing their craft. It's an artistic pursuit that's paid off in spades: Last year, the two men were inducted into the Texas Heritage Songwriters' Hall of Fame, and between them, have authored some of the most indelible tunes of the last 25 years.
I caught up with Lovett yesterday, ahead of Sunday's sold-out show, and what follows is an edited, condensed transcript of our brief conversation.
So what prompted the decision to go out with Robert Earl Keen for a few shows?
Lovett: We've been talking about doing this for a long time and it just seemed like it would be fun. That really was it. Robert and I have been friends for a long time, and hardly ever get to see one another, so we thought this might be a great way to hang out.
What does it mean to you to be a part of Bass Hall's 15th anniversary celebration?
Every time I set foot on stage at Bass Hall, it's an honor. It's always exciting to play there, it's a wonderful, wonderful theater. ... There's no better place to see a show in the world, so I feel especially honored to be a part of the 15th anniversary celebration.
In performing with Robert, does he throw you any curveballs? Does it kind of recharge you, in a way?
I really don't know what to expect, other than to get to listen to Robert and enjoy being around him. We haven't really planned anything; we've really never done this sort of show together before. We've been on the same bill before, but never on stage together swapping songs for the entire show. I just know I'll be in the audience half the time, and I'll have the best seat in the house, sitting right next to him listening to him.
Are you worried he'll drag up stories from college?
I think at this point in our lives and our careers, neither one of us embarrass very easily. [chuckles] But it ought to make for a good time. I intend to talk to him about those days, and our mutual friends, and sort of how we got started. It's such a wonderful feeling all these years to do what we love to do, and to be with Robert will underscore that even more. He and I used to sit around and play until the wee hours, and talk about and dream about what it would be like if we really could play music for living. To be able to do a show like this with him makes it extra meaningful.
I know Release Me isn't terribly old yet, but have your thoughts turned to new music?
I've just been making up songs, trying to get ready for my next record. I haven't decided yet what the business of that's going to be, whether I'm going to affiliate with a label or not, or exactly how it'll be released. For sure, I'm not going to stop making records and I'm not going to stop making music. It's always been a couple, two or three years between records. I'm always a little slow [laughs].
Something else I wondered, given your journalism background, are you interested in a memoir type of project?
I haven't given serious thought to it, but if, at some point, there's enough interest. One thing that I appreciate so much about the way my life works is that I do get to meet so many people that I admire and respect and to have the chance to write about my getting to know people from a personal point of view is something that appeals to me, but I don't have any plans to do that ... that would be how I'd think about it, from a journalistic point of view and a personal point of view. I'd talk about people and how they impacted me. ... The situations I find myself in, still, I look around and it seems unreal.