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Lyle Lovett feels all of fatherhood on first album in a decade, '12th of June'


Lyle Lovett - the Texas troubadour - and His Large Band have a new song that sounds like an anthem for these pandemic times.


LYLE LOVETT: (Singing) Lord Jesus knew just what to wear.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) Oh, yes, he did. Yes, he did.

LOVETT: (Singing) Oh, to live in desert air.


LOVETT: (Singing) He walked the earth in poor man's shoes and sang this ninth beatitude.

LYLE LOVETT, ET AL: (singing) Pants is overrated. Pants is overrated. Pants is overrated. Yes, yes.

SIMON: Say amen, somebody. That song is from his latest album, "12th Of June." And Lyle Lovett joins us now from, of course, Texas. Thanks so much for being with us.

LOVETT: Scott, you know, I've been listening to you for years and years. And I'm just honored to be on the radio with you.

SIMON: Well, I'm honored to be on the radio with you. I must point out, it can get cold at night in the desert, can't it? I mean...

LOVETT: Well, I...

SIMON: ...They're the place for pants, yeah?

LOVETT: Well, there you are. But, you know, we all have to sacrifice.

SIMON: (Laughter) Well, let me ask you about about this album because they're such a broad range of songs. There's the the innocence of newborns and divinity - kilts. Let me ask you about some of the covers you do of some classics, like "Straighten Up And Fly Right" and "Peel Me A Grape." Why put these songs here? Why do they endure?

LOVETT: You know, I tried to organize this album as I would organize one of my live shows. And over the years, we typically have started the Large Band shows with an instrumental that serves really as an overture just to let the audience know, OK, this is what you're in for.


LOVETT: "Cookin' At The Continental" was the second instrumental the Large Band and I performed in our shows. We'd never recorded it in the studio. So I thought, well, I - gosh, I'd like to document that. All three standards are songs that I'd recorded before and had been playing live the last few tours. We arranged the songs - so the ones with lyrics as duets with Francine Reed, which we'd - Francine and I had been doing live. And to be able to showcase the immense voice and talent of Francine Reed, who I met in 1984 and have been singing with ever since, was one of my objectives.


LYLE LOVETT AND FRANCINE REED: (Singing) Here's how to be an agreeable chap. Love me, and leave me in luxury's lap.

LOVETT: (Singing) Hop when I holler. Skip when I snap.

LOVETT AND REED: (Singing) When I say, do it, jump to it.

SIMON: I was a little astonished to discover that it's been 10 years since your last studio album.

LOVETT: Well, in my defense, it doesn't seem like that long to me. And I have discovered that the older I get, things that seem like they were just a couple of years ago were actually five years ago. And things that seem five years ago were 10. And I never stop touring. You know, I've - since the beginning of my career, I've played 100 to 110 dates a year. But I didn't record. And kind of in the middle of that, my life took a turn in a wonderful way and, you know, got extra busy with having a family. So that's all part of the reason for the gap between records.

SIMON: Well, tell us about having a family, what difference that has made.

LOVETT: Well, you know, I know I'm not unique. I'm not the first person to have children in the world. But, you know, when it happens to you, you kind of feel like you are.

SIMON: Yeah.

LOVETT: I mean, it's such a revelation. And I always thought I wanted to be a dad. But I had absolutely no idea how much I'd enjoy it. You know, it's brought wonders and blessings and thoughts and songs to me that I, you know, never imagined before.

SIMON: Well, and that brings us to the title track, "12th Of June."


LOVETT: (Singing) Before spring turned into summer, after night turned into day, they were born a Monday morning in the days just after May, in the days just after May.

You know, I made that up just before their first birthday. And I was 59 years old when they were born. And I never thought twice about my age before that. But then, you know, I started doing the math - when they might start school, when they might finish school, you know, when...

SIMON: Oh, you'll never have children if you start doing the math. But go ahead. Yeah.

LOVETT: Exactly. And so I just started thinking, gosh, I hope I'm around for as much of their lives as I can be. And so really, that's where the song came from.


LOVETT: (Singing) By the branch at San Jacinto, play for me a happy tune. Know of all the days I loved, I loved best the 12th of June. I loved best the 12th of June.

SIMON: May I ask - your twins, who are 5, right?

LOVETT: They'll be 5 in June.

SIMON: Do they know what you do?

LOVETT: And...

SIMON: Go ahead.

LOVETT: I'm not sure how they're going to feel about everybody knowing their birthday, but....

SIMON: Oh, I intend to send a cheesecake. What do you mean?

LOVETT: (Laughter) Well, we'd gladly accept. Thank you. They have some idea of it, but they haven't been to a show. They do like music. And they like music from the programs they watch. And they're always explaining it to me. I'm struck with just how confident they are in what they know. And I just love being set straight by my 4 year olds.

SIMON: (Laughter).


LOVETT: (Singing) Are we dancing? Yes, we're dancing. Are we dancing, dancing, dancing, dancing?

SIMON: Tell us about the song "Are We Dancing."

LOVETT: That's one that, once again, my children gave to me because when they were babies, I would waltz around the living room with them.

SIMON: Yeah.

LOVETT: And I just started singing that to them one day.

SIMON: Oh, my gosh.


LOVETT: (Singing) Oh, the world is just just beginning. When I hold you, it starts spinning.

SIMON: You have a particularly haunting line in "12th Of June" where you say, there are those who will walk above us who'll remember that we were. Makes you wonder, what lasts?

LOVETT: Well, I think about that as well. And the thing that I want most to last of me is for my children to realize their dad loves them. I certainly feel that when I think about my own father. And if they can feel from me the way I feel about my father, I feel like that's about as good as it gets.

SIMON: It is, indeed. Lyle Lovett, his new album, "12th Of June." Thank you so much for being with us today.

LOVETT: Scott, thank you. Thanks for helping us get the word out. And thanks for talking to me. I am a fan.

SIMON: Well, I'm a fan of yours. I'm so glad we could do this. Thank you.


FRANCINE REED: (Singing) Love makes me treat you the way I do. Gee, baby, ain't I good to you? Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
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