Houston Music

Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett Praise Houston On NPR

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On his own, and the scene's, Harris County roots:

Lyle Lovett: My family has lived on the same piece of ground since the 1840s, so for me it wasn't a choice as much as it was feeling lucky to be in that environment. It's just what Steve said - Guy [Clark] and Townes lived there, and Mickey Newbury.

Earle: Mickey Newbury's the godfather.

Lovett: Guy told me that it was Newbury that encouraged him to write his first song.

Earle: Newbury was Townes' first publisher.

Lovett: And of course Jerry Jeff Walker lived in Houston too, but the way Townes - I mean, Townes and Lightnin' were very close, and the way Townes interpreted Lightnin's work, and then the way Guy in that great Guy Clark detail, the way he reports on everything.

Just the standard that was set by Townes' writing and Guy's writing alone. It's still - the impact still endures in Houston. But there were such great places to play. A question that I'm asked really often is, "What is it about Texas? Why are there so many singer-songwriters who come from there?"

I do think the orientation is a little different. Your orientation just to the songwriting process, or why you might write a song - Steve and I went to Nashville to try to get into the music business, [but] you went out and played in Houston. You went out and played in Austin and Dallas.

We were able to play to an audience of people, not an audience made up of the music business. Performers wrote songs for their shows, not to try to impress somebody except to be good enough for the audience that would come.

Sound familiar, Houston? Like, something that still goes on today, provided you know where to look for it? Stream the entire episode here, including performances from Lovett ("Diamond In the Rough" with Shawn Colvin, "San Antonio Girl") and Earle ("City of Immigrants," "Someday"). NPR is also streaming another Texas singer-songwriter immortal's brand-new album, Alejandro Escovedo's Street Songs of Love, here.

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray