Lucinda Williams: "The very thing that held me up in the beginning ended up becoming Americana music"
Here at Official Charts, we understand the importance of championing every genre (and niche, 'I've-never-heard-of-that-before' sub-genre) across the musical landscape.
Working alongside the Americana Music Association UK, we're able to celebrate those pivotal new Americana releases; and we're extremely proud to announce welcome our new sponsor for the Official Americana Chart, Sweet Home Alabama.
Alabama is a state steeped in musical history; the birthplace of Nat King Cole, Lionel Richie and Emmylou Harris to name just a few of its famous offspring.
A vibrant destination deeply connected with the sound of Americana that we celebrate each week on the UK’s Americana Chart, and soon set to welcome a spectacular new 8000-capacity venue.
The Orion Amphitheater in Huntsville is founded by Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons (TVG Hospitality) and is set for a show-stopping launch with The First Waltz between May 13-15.
We look forward to delving into Americana music over the coming months in partnership with Sweet Home Alabama, starting with a woman who wholly embodies the very heart of the genre.
Grammy Award-winning Americana icon Lucinda Williams joins us to talk through the genre's evolution; and tells us how its once-ambiguous nature became its biggest appeal.
Identifying Americana's increasing popularity and influence on other genres, Lucinda explains: "I think the genre's grown a lot. The thing I notice most, probably, is people's definition of what Americana really is. I think it's confusing for some people."
So, what is considered Americana? "It's easier to pinpoint if you're in the industry," she says. "For me, in the beginning when it first established, it appeared to be anything that wasn't more commercially accepted.
"It was the stuff that fell through the cracks; the songs that didn't get a lot of radio play. It was the anti-commercial genre.
"When I was first starting out and trying to get a record deal, I made a demo tape and drew some interest from Sony. They set it up so I could record my songs; the idea being that they'd listen to it afterwards and maybe give me a record deal based on those demo tapes.
"When I got the tape done, the Sony Records in LA said it was 'too country' for rock audiences. They sent it out to Sony Records in Nashville, who said it was 'too rock' for country radio. I literally fell between the cracks of country and rock.
"I held out for a while until Rough Trade came along, because they didn't care one way or the other. They were more of a punk label, and as far as I was concerned they liked my songs and liked my voice. That was enough. They weren't concerned about the marketing aspect of it as much.
"That's what's so funny about it. The very thing that held me up in the beginning is what ended up becoming Americana music eventually."
BELOW: Check out The First Waltz teaser at Huntsville Ampitheater, May 13-15 2022.
Lucinda's currently working on her what will be her fifteenth studio album, the follow-up to 2020's Good Souls Better Angels.
"I'm writing songs for that album right now," she says. "I'll see how they fit together. Usually, when I'm writing songs for an album, I don't sit and decide ahead of time 'this will be this kind of album.' I just get the songs done and see how they work together."
On how bravely-honest she is in her writing, confronting political and societal issues, Lucinda tells us: "I like to make people listen and wake them up a little bit.
"I like to push their buttons a little. I think it's important to make people think, whether it's through a song, looking at a painting or reading a book. That's the role of art.
"Sometimes we, as recording artists, forget that we're artists. Things get too caught up in the business side of things; trying to have a single that radio will play. It goes back to the 'too country for rock, too rock for country' story from earlier in my career."
Lucinda also assures us she'll be back in the UK to tour her next record. "Oh yeah, I'll be back there," she promises. "It's in its early talks, early stages."
With thanks to our Official Americana Chart partners Sweet Home Alabama. For more information, head to Sweet Home Alabama.