It's noon, and 72-year-old Delbert McClinton sounds like he's just woken up and maybe had the first cigarette of the day. But he's a pro and is ready to talk about his career, his forthcoming New West Records album with old running buddy Glen Clark, Blind, Crippled & Crazy, and his experiences in Houston.
Rocks Off: You've been at this a long time now. Has there ever been a moment when you thought you'd just hang it up, try something else?
Delbert McClinton: Nah, not even once. I was lucky enough to get a little taste of success early on, and I just kept showing up. It's a cliché, but I really wouldn't trade what I do for anything.
RO: Even though it's billed as Delbert and Glen, it sounds very much like a Delbert McClinton album and has a lot of those double-entendre type of songs you've always done.
DM: Well, we're both from Fort Worth and we've been friends a long time, I'm sure that accounts for part of that. A few of those songs are tunes Glen brought in, the ones where he takes the lead.
But most of the rest of those were primarily written by me and Gary Nicholson, another Texas guy I've written with for years. And Glen, Gary, and I wrote three or four together.
RO: You slip into a little different voice on a couple of these, "More and More, Less and Less" and "If I Could Be Your Lover." Where does that other Delbert come from?
DM: You have to have more than one gear, I think. And you adjust to the lyrics and the feel. I'm glad you noticed that.
RO: We were listening to the album with a friend who described "If I Could Be Your Lover" as "Sehnsuchtig."
DM: Say what?
RO: Yeah, I know. It's a German word that means regretful or filled with regret. Seemed like a perfect description of that song and that voice you get into.
DM: Wow, that's deep. I've got remember that one.
RO: For lack of a better word, they're very sexy, like songs you'd put on for a make-out session.
DM [laughs]: Yeah, well, that never hurt any record sales, I don't think.
RO: What do you foresee as far as record sales, etc.?
DM: You know, I've sort of given up on having expectations. The whole thing is so messed up these days, I just go in there and try to make a record I'm happy with and let it go at that.
I quit trying to figure it out a long time ago. If you go in with high expectations, you're setting yourself up for disappointment more times than not. So it's just let the chips fall for me.
RO: The songs are what really elevates this record. All 12 of them are keepers, really memorable, the kind of songs that stick in your head for a week.
DM: I'm so close to it, I can't tell honestly. I think every album is full of the best material I can write or find, but you just never know until the public reacts. But that's great to hear from someone who writes about this stuff.
RO: Will you be touring specifically for this record?
DM: Oh, yeah, we've got some dates booked, and we'll have Glen out with us as a special guest and we'll do part of the record.
RO: You've been on the road since you were 16. Do you still like it or is it something you dread?
DM: I'm lucky that I can just do enough of it to satisfy my jones. But, yeah, been there, done that. I've been to all the parties I ever want to go to, done all the crazy stuff you do out there on the road.
It's not the gigs you hate, but I'm sick of hotel rooms. Not being in your regular place, that's what gets to me about touring.
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Come back for more with McClinton Thursday.