The Dwight Yoakam Interview
Dwight Yoakam speaks with the wisdom of a man who’s seen and done more things in his fifty-six years of life than most normal, well-adjusted people could ever hope to do in Yoda’s lifetime. Yoakam came up in the early-80s Los Angeles rock scene, playing old-school country music with the sensibility of the punk bands he was often playing shows with, when his Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. helped propel him to country stardom. But just because the dude’s sold 25 million albums doesn’t mean he’s not still a badass who doesn’t mind stepping out of his comfort zone: Yoakam has also acted in Sling Blade, appeared on King of the Hill, and also tapped Beck to produce songs for his newest album 3 Pears, which also astoundingly enough had Kid Rock singing on a track. Yoakam called me from Los Angeles to talk 3 Pears, drop some history on my ass, and explain what you’re supposed to learn in life.
NOISEY: Let’s jump right into it. How did you get hooked up with Beck for 3 Pears?
Dwight Yoakam: I just had a hunch that he and I might be interesting together, and I didn’t know whether he’d be interested in doing anything or not. Turns out he was, so he came over to my office and we sat around for about four hours, just talking music. He’s a real equipment aficionado, and really knew the gear, the old tube gear and stuff. He’d just recently acquired one of the original Capital Studios boards here in Capitol. He has an old EMI too; we’re not sure whether it was one of the ones The Beatles used or not. e called up and said, “Hey, I’ve got something I’m gonna maybe take a shot at doing for a TV show, and if you’d be interested in writing something or co-writing, getting together and co-writing…” Subsequently, before I went over to his home studio I had come up with this idea and it’s written—the song “A Heart Like Mine,” I said “I’ve got this thing, kinda Creedence-y, kinda “Bad Moon Rising.” He had an assistant engineer play drums and that’s the track that we created that day, “A Heart Like Mine.” Turned out as a bit of a template and a catalyst for a lot of the rest of the records, certainly how I was going to approach recording.
The record also features Kid Rock.
That was a song that only took 20 years and three hours to write. I’d had the song, the opening chorus and hook lying around for about almost 20 years, and I kicked it around for a couple of years and just thought “There’s something cool about that, I don’t know what I’m gonna do with it, though.” And Kid Rock’s got a place here in Los Angeles and was staying here for a week or so and said, “You wanna come over and try writing something together?” So I got there and pulled that out and said, “Here’s something I started to write years ago and never really finished.” And he said, “Finish that.” He lit a cigar and started pacing back and forth and typing. He’d be out on the balcony, puffing away, then dart back in the room and typing something up. Either he sang to me or I sang back to him, and we finished it out.