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American Routes Shortcuts: Jim Lauderdale

Jim Lauderdale
American Routes

Americana icon Jim Lauderdale followed his love of music from the Carolinas to Nashville, New York and Los Angeles. Despite great songs, his genre-defying style made it hard to get a record deal. Now considered a songwriting legend, Lauderdale has penned tunes for George Strait, Patty Loveless and Solomon Burke, collaborated with Willie Nelson, Ralph Stanley and the Grateful Dead’s lyricist Robert Hunter. Lauderdale was inspired when he saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show.



Jim Lauderdale: I spent most of my youth in North Carolina, and then I lived in Due West for thirteen to sixteen, and then went up to Chapel Hill and finished high school as I was learning to play the banjo. I was really into bluegrass music, and music just kind of led me on. At that time in the ‘60s and ‘70s, radio was so great, so there was so much diversity, and when I was in Due West, I worked at the college radio station starting when I was thirteen. But I really got bitten by the bluegrass bug, and then as I started playing rhythm guitar, I started writing. 

JL: After college I went to Nashville for a while, and things didn’t really pan out there, however I did record what would’ve been my first album with one of my bluegrass heroes named Roland White. 

Nick Spitzer: And suddenly after all these years we can get to hear that record. 

JL: I’m so glad it came out because I couldn’t get a deal for it at the time, and I really thought that was gonna be my big break, and it was really a tough go with music. 

JL: After I left Nashville, I moved up to New York City. Then I ended up eventually in LA, and things finally just kind of started falling into place. There was a great scene. 

NS: Yeah who was out there with you? 

JL: Oh Lucinda Williams, Chris Gaffney, Dave Alvin, Dwight Yoakam was there, and I started singing on his albums. 

NS: Time Flies, your recent recording, you’ve got a lot of great songs on this record. You’ve got a song that almost sounds like a ‘60s song in terms of concern about the future, “If the World’s Still Here Tomorrow.” 

JL: That title just came to me because I like to stay current and see what’s going on out there in the world and our news, and sometimes I wonder about that, and so I thought I would write this love song of hey, you know, if the world is still here tomorrow, I’ll still be loving you. 


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