10.07.2019

In a world divided by hate, Jim Lauderdale is finding solace through music

Jim Lauderdale
Photo: Giulia McGauran
Words by Augustus Welby

Released in June, From Another World is Jim Lauderdale’s 32nd studio album. His solo debut, Planet of Love, came out in 1991, meaning the American songwriter’s notched up more than 30 records in fewer than 30 years.

From Another World follows last year’s Time Flies and was, again, made with co-producer and bassist, Jay Weaver. The record encompasses country, blues, bluegrass, folk, southern rock, psychedelic soul and more. However, among the genre roving, it’s still distinguishable as a Jim Lauderdale record.

“It’s definitely a continuation of the sound I developed on Time Flies, which feels like a new sound for me,” Lauderdale says. “When I began working with Chris Scruggs, who plays most of the guitar on both records, he took things to a new place for me, different to much of the electric music I’ve recorded in the past.

“I always rely on the input of the excellent musicians I use and value their opinions and ideas. Sometimes I come in with exact guitar, piano, steel parts mapped out in my head and it’s just a matter of getting the folks to carry them out, but often their own ideas are really valuable. It’s whatever works best.”

Born in North Carolina, Lauderdale has spent most of his career based in Nashville. Along with the solo records, he’s collaborated widely and written songs for the likes of George Strait, Patty Loveless and the Dixie Chicks. He’s a well-established figure in Nashville, but the city wasn’t always so receptive.

“I first came to Nashville 40 years ago and I only lasted five months. I realised I wasn’t ready and wouldn’t make it here, so I left and moved first to New York City and then LA, where I learned so much,” Lauderdale says. “I was afraid to come back to Nashville for a long time – I knew that if I did and things didn’t work out again it would crush me, so it wasn’t until the early-‘90s [that] I moved here properly.”

Nashville is a songwriting town with a diversifying musical populace, and the Tennessean city has seen consistent growth over the last 30 years.

“It’s becoming a real melting pot of a lot of diverse musical styles and it is inspiring place for that reason,” Lauderdale says. “Any resource you might need as a musician is here.

It has become a combination of what LA and New York used to be, and a lot of music folks from those places have now relocated here.”

Lauderdale is an incredibly busy musician, but he’s not oblivious to the current state of affairs in the USA and around the globe, one characterised by division, competing self-righteous groups attacking one another online and in reality, political corruption and untruths, and the dire forecasts for the planet. He envisions From Another World as an offering of empathy, love and understanding.

“I do find it difficult to relax in the midst of everything that’s going on right now in America, and the world, but music is certainly what helps me cope with it,” Lauderdale says. “At its best, music is moving and uplifting. It can be soothing but also thought provoking. It’s also a common bond that can unite people, something they can share no matter the differences in their beliefs. I think that’s a positive, healing thing.”

On a personal level, songwriting is a vehicle that takes Lauderdale to a different and better place within himself.

“Oftentimes a song idea can come along and transform my mood and make everything seem all right in the world for that moment in time, or at least in the world I have inside of me. I find this particularly true with ‘One Away’ from the new record. That song and the way the recording turned out has a real calming effect, it takes me to another place.”

Jim Lauderdale’s new album From Another World is out now via Yep Roc Records. Lauderdale comes to Melbourne as part of Out On The Weekend on Saturday October 12. Grab your tickets via Love Police.