Friday, June 12, 2009

Interview with JD Souther

Photo credit: Erick Anderson
Even if you don't know JD Souther, you've heard his songs.
One of the most gifted songwriters to emerge out of the Southern California country rock movement of the early 1970s, he co-wrote many of the Eagles' best-known songs, including "Heartache Tonight," "Victim of Love," "New Kid In Town" and "Best of My Love."
And when the re-formed Eagles went into the studio to record the band's first album in 28 years, they released their version of Souther's "How Long" as the debut single in August 2007.
In addition to his work with the Eagles, Souther wrote classics for Linda Ronstadt ("Faithless Love," "Simple Man, Simple Dream" and "Prisoner in Disguise") and scored hits of his own including 1979's "You're Only Lonely" and his 1981 duet with James Taylor, "Her Town Too."
However, after the release of his acclaimed 1984 album "Home By Dawn," fans of the talented singer-songwriter would have to wait a generation to hear a full-length collection of new songs from Souther.
But the long wait is over. Souther made a rare appearance in Orange County on Thursday night, June 11 in support of his latest album, 2008's "If The World Was You," an outstanding 11-track disc featuring his masterful lyrics positioned in a lush musical landscape of rock, jazz, soul and Latin styles that defies easy categorization.
"Its been since then (1984) that I made a studio album of all new stuff but I've done a few of these tours," Souther explained in a June 2, 2009 interview from his rural home outside of Nashville, Tenn. This writer then asked Souther if it took 24 years to release a new album because he had "finally" penned enough new songs to fill an album.
"Well, 'finally' might be a mistake because I wasn't writing them (songs) all of the time," said Souther, 63.
"The simplest answer to 'Why now?' is yes, the material. I went to Cuba in 1998; I had a really powerful musical experience a weekend I was there and I started this batch of songs and I was itching to get out and play something but I wasn't exactly sure what but I had really been missing music I grew up with which was small group jazz. … I was just lonesome to hear this really."
Although John David Souther was born in Detroit, and lived briefly in Cleveland, he spent most of his childhood and early teens living in Amarillo, Texas. Although he fell in love with rock 'n' roll in his teens, his earliest musical memories include listening to everything from Puccini operas and Beethoven symphonies to jazz recordings by Nat King Cole and Miles Davis and country pioneer George Jones.
Souther headlined at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on June 11, and was scheduled to feature many of the songs from "If The World Was You," as well as songs he has written and recorded throughout his acclaimed career.
"The fact that I'm playing alone means I don't have a set list," Souther explained.
"I can change keys; I can wander around and play anything I want. If I'm in the mood to play 'New Kid In Town' one night, I'll do that. If I'm in the mood to play 'Faithless Love,' 'How Long' or 'Best of My Love,' I do that. It's very unrestrictive."
Souther said he was looking forward to his solo appearance at the Coach House, with some of his fondest memories including appearances from San Diego to Los Angeles as a member of the folk duo Longbranch Pennywhistle that he formed with Glenn Frey shortly after moving to Southern California in the late 1960s.
"Well, you know, I've been playing music since I was nine," Souther recalled.
"The Texas Panhandle in 1968 or so when I migrated west did not have what existed along the beaches of Southern California. And that was beautiful weather, the most fabulous ocean in the world and the prettiest girls in the world, and an easy place to be poor. I didn't have any money; I had a Triumph motorcycle and a guitar."

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