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INTERVIEW: Kurt Wagner on Lambchop, Nashville – and being seen as a redneck (The Guardian)

[ 0 ] February 12, 2012 |

Kurt Wagner Playing the GuitarBy (The Guardian)

Kurt Wagner likes the backroads. It drives his wife mad, he says, as we pootle through the suburbs of Nashville in his battered Toyota pickup (a stick shift; they’re much cheaper secondhand) – she just wants him to go from A to B along the most direct roads. Thing is, he says, the most direct roads aren’t always the quickest.

We are braving the traffic to reach Nolensville, 10 miles or so south of the city, where the Tennessee countryside starts to replace the suburban strip malls. His reward for a day of talking about his new album with Lambchop will be baby back ribs – with the Memphis dry rub – fromMartin’s, the best barbecue place around. “There are barbecue purists who say the meat should stick to the bone,” he says, once we’ve started on the colossal plates of pork. He holds up a rib denuded of all flesh. “They’re wrong. This is good, right?”

Barbecued ribs, pickup trucks – it all feeds into the image the British media has constructed of Wagner. He had a job laying wooden floors even after Lambchop became successful! He wears caps advertising agricultural produce! He’s from the south! He must be some sort of redneck savant! Why else would he produce these wistful, shy songs, melding lush 70s-style soul to American roots music?

But that’s not Wagner. Earlier in the day, in the studio where he paints, he talks about exploring the late 70s Memphis rockabilly scene, about going to art school in Montana, where he became part of the circle of the novelists Thomas McGuane and Richard Brautigan. Later, as we drive around his hometown, he tells me about his dad, a biochemist, and how since a heart attack he’s finally started talking about the breakthroughs he made investigating folic acid. He talks about his parents’ disappointment when he chose not to follow a reputable career, but instead took up manual labouring to fund his art. It’s more Five Easy Pieces than Deliverance.

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Category: Press & Reviews

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