Interview

Lovett & Hiatt Join Forces at Walton Arts Center

Photo Credit: Jim McGuire

Gin and tonic, bluegrass and banjos, the fourth of July and firecrackers – some things are just meant to be. When it comes to music, “An Evening with Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt” is one of those things - a match made in singer-songwriter heaven. On Tuesday, February 21, Fayetteville’s Walton Arts Center hosts this talented duo for a superb night of song swaps and storytelling.

Texas music legend Lyle Lovett is a four-time Grammy winner known for his clever humor, lyrical detail and expansive musical palette that take his tunes way beyond the confines of any one genre. Poignant, humorous and beautiful, Lovett’s songs run the gamut, each penned with an exceptional talent reminiscent of other Lone Star luminaries like Guy Clark or Townes Van Zandt.

Like Lovett, John Hiatt is a master storyteller and lyricist. With a satirical wit, Hiatt deftly populates his songs with characters that invoke both empathy and laughter. But he can just as easily bring you to tears with stories of broken love and lost chances.

The combination of these two incredible musicians on one bill is not to be missed.

“It really is fun,” Hiatt said of his shows with Lovett. “Lyle has a singular kind of humor, and I really enjoy being with him. We’ve become friends over the years. He’s very funny. It’s always a joy to do these shows.”

While Hiatt is most often celebrated for his songwriting talents, he’s also a skilled guitarist. It’s a gift that took him a while to recognize.

“When I was younger, I didn’t really consider myself much of a guitar player,” Hiatt recalled. “I started learning how to play guitar just to write a song. As soon as I had three chords figured out, I wrote my first songs, so it always felt like it was a support thing for me – just a device so that I could write. But, as I got further into it, I started realizing it was an integral part of what I do, so I can’t really separate the two.”

It was fellow musician Ry Cooder who eventually helped Hiatt realize he really was a talented guitarist, too. Cooder, along with Nick Lowe and Jim Keltner, backed Hiatt on his ‘87 release Bring the Family and joined him as the band “Little Village” on a self-titled album in ‘92.

"Playing with people like Ry [Cooder] gave me so much confidence,” Hiatt said. “He was the first guy who actually made me feel like I was a decent guitar player. I never really thought of myself as a guitar player before I played with him. Just learning from him and having him compliment me gave me some confidence in my guitar playing, so, over the years, I started feeling like well, you know, I guess I’m okay.”

Ironically, even after 22 albums, this prolific songwriter still doesn't quite know how he does it.

“Songwriting terrifies me. I don’t even know how it’s done,” Hiatt confessed with a laugh. “I still don’t know what happens when I write a song. It’s completely beyond me how one ever gets written. I’m stunned every time it comes out.”

Fortunately, for his fans, eventually those songs pour forth, flowing from a rich, and quintessentially American, musical tradition.

“I’d like to hope it just comes from that original well of the South. I think it starts with the blues, essentially. I think that’s the original American music, and everything else comes from that,” he said. “I hope I try to tap into that. Or maybe it’s in me. I hope it’s in me.”

For more information on this show, visit the Walton Arts Center.