Interview: Ben Nichols of LUCERO – Live at the Cox Capitol Theatre – 1/25

photo by Brantley Gutierrez

photo by Brantley Gutierrez

LUCERO returns to Macon on January 25th after a four year hiatus for a show at the Cox Capitol Theatre alongside our “Band of the Month” from July 2013 – Jonny Fritz. The bands are on tour throughout the Southeast over the next two weeks. Tickets are available here for the Macon show. Enjoy our interview with the band’s Ben Nichols below.

Tell me about the first time you met Jonny Fritz.. and any expectations for the time on the road together?

First time I saw Jonny Fritz was at SXSW in Austin a few years ago.  He was going by Jonny Corndawg and I thought he was absolutely hilarious.  Talented with well crafted songs… but hilarious.  We’ve done a tour or two with him since then and we get along great.  It is always a good show when we play with that guy.

Are you familiar with the documentary West of Memphis? I saw the film last year and was astounded by the story it told (the first I’d heard of it). Since then, I read a feature film about the story is in the works. I was curious, considering your relationship with the city and the people there, about your thoughts on how the case affected the city… and how things have changed (if at all) since it was overturned?

I’ve never seen West of Memphis.  I’m going to assume it is about the West Memphis Three.  If I’m wrong then this answer is worth nothing.  I’ve seen a number of other documentaries and articles on the case and I think it is all heartbreaking.  The original crime as well as the way things were handled afterward… the whole thing was awful.  We played a benefit show for the West Memphis Three one time a number of years ago but we never did the kind of campaigning that people like Steve Earle and Pearl Jam did. I have to say I, I’m glad the West Memphis Three are finally free.

On a lighter note, what about your history with Macon? I remember seeing you guys years back at the Hummingbird with Glossary maybe four years ago… and then even further back with Hank Vegas.. Any memorable experiences from your time here?

We always had a blast at the Hummingbird.  It is probable that we had TOO good a time there.  This will be our first time in Macon with the horn section.  The plan this time is to put on the best show we;ve done in Macon so far.  We’ll still probably have too good of a time still.

As a band that’s had some rocky transitions with label representation over the years, what have you enjoyed about settling in with ATO – a label that’s widely known for their personal and professional relationships with the artists they represent?

We’re are among very good company at ATO.  They have a very good working relationship with our management company and it feels like it’s the right place for us to be.  Not too big, not too small. Record labels can be tricky to work with, especially when today there are so many ways to release and distribute records on your own.  It takes both parties understanding what the other is bringing to the table and appreciating that.  Luckily the folks at ATO know exactly what we are and they’ve been great to work with.

You all spend a lot of time on the road (I’m putting that lightly). You’ve covered tens-of-thousands of miles over the past 17 years and you’ve probably seen more of America than most of the acts we talk to..Difficult as it may be to place it, is there one particular town, city, stretch of highway etc… that resonates with you more than the others?

I always love playing in my home state of Arkansas.  Of course Memphis is right across the river, and even though Memphis is definitely Lucero’s hometown, I still count myself as an Arkansan and so playing there is always my favorite.  But like you said, we’ve been all over the place and we’ve been traveling for a living for over 15 years now and I think we’re very lucky to have a whole bunch of places all over the country that feel like home when you play them.  A number of towns, like Orlando, Atlanta, Louisville, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco… they all make us feel very welcome each time we visit.

I’m guessing you’ve had barbecue from every corner of the country… What (if so) makes Memphis-style the best?

Ha. One of the other boy’s would have to answer that question.  I love a pulled pork sandwich, and I love dry-rub ribs… but I’m personally partial to Texas Brisket.  My little brothers both live down there and I can’t get enough of that stuff.

What have you been reading or listening to recently?

I just finished Robert Gordon’s book Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion. I’d known a lot about Stax and had listened to a lot of singles, but this was the first time I’d gotten the whole story from beginning to end.  And with the Sanitation workers strike and Martin Luther King Jr and the whole backdrop of racial and social tension woven into the story, it is very important history and makes for great reading.  It also makes me very proud to just be part of Memphis music.

How does the band like to approach set lists when you go on tour? Do you tend to have a pretty strict set of songs you plan on playing or do you prefer to leave things open ended – whether to take a few requests or simply play what you feel each night?

We never make set lists.  We often take a lot of requests.  But sometimes that gets out of hand and we just end up playing whatever we want.  Usually we’ve had a few that always go at the beginning and some that almost always go at the end.  We just recorded a live record in Atlanta that will probably reflect that… so maybe we’ll start changing things up.

Far to often it seems like Americana/alt-country songs are quickly labeled as “whiskey drenched” in some form or fashion, but the fact of it is that the drink goes hand-in-hand with the lifestyle, more often than not… That being said, when you have the option to be particular about what you’re drinking, what do you prefer?

Jameson.  I should’ve had a sponsorship ten years ago.

What’s your most commonly asked, least favorite question in interviews?

I love and appreciate them all.

LUCERO – “Texas & Tennessee” – Live on WNRN

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