Article: SPECTACLE REPORT: Elvis Costello's Must-Hear Songs by John Prine, Lyle Lovett, and Ray LaMontagne
Elvis Costello and Lyle Lovett.
Some people imagine I have a head start with my SPECTACLE encounters simply because my guests and I share an occupation.
However, the location of the specific common ground has often been unusual or obscure.
For example, Lyle Lovett and I both contributed to Robert Altman’s motion picture, SHORT CUTS.
I wrote the song “Punishing Kiss” for Annie Ross to perform, while Lyle, rather more crucially, was featured as a sinister confectioner. So, there was not much cause for dialogue, other than to remark upon this coincidence.
When I started my career, my unfortunate face and manner of speaking, which has often been mistaken for insolent at international borders, had me frequently described as “aggressive” or – perish the thought – “surly.”
In truth, I foolishly imagined that my songs might flourish while I remained out of the spotlight, but my natural shyness and impatience to get on with my work was often incorrectly decoded.
So while Ray Lamontagne may have found it hard to imagine that SPECTACLE’s M.C. was in anyway reticent, I can appreciate how his own natural reserve could be lazily mistaken for being “difficult.”
All I can say is that throughout our conversation Ray spoke with the same singular clarity and generosity found in his songs.
For all the contrasts between our three guests, one idea stands: they are all singers who have prevailed after initial comparisons to other performers, even when these supposed resemblances were intended to be complimentary.
I’ve always believed that a lot of good songs have been written while unsuccessfully attempting to copy the style of another writer. A lot of pop music is like this; you start out with someone else’s rhythm or voice in your head, and in utterly failing to duplicate it, you find your own.