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Q&A: Lucinda Williams, Singer/Songwriter

Danny Clinch

One of America’s most respected singer/songwriters, Lucinda Williams talks about joy, crossword puzzles, and the magic of a little red wine.

In our September/October 2020 issue, we spoke with singer/songwriter/musician Lucinda Williams about her latest album—Good Souls Better Angels—her creative process, and why joy isn’t always the end game. Here is a bit more from our interview with this highly respected creative.

What do you do for self-care?

I’m one of these people whose brain keeps going and going. The way I relax is I do crossword puzzles. I am hooked on The New York Times crossword puzzles. I do one every day. I really enjoy it and look forward to it. And I exercise. I get on my recumbent bike. We have a little gym set up in one of the rooms in the house. I like doing the hand weights. I also enjoy reading.

What’s gotten easier for you as you’ve gotten older?

I found my soul mate [Tom Overby] when I was in my 50s, and that made my life easier. I finally got out of my own way. That changed my life. I feel like I’ve grown since then. When we met, he was working at different record labels doing [artists and repertoire]. From the very first moment, I thought—“Oh, no, this is a record company guy, he’s on the other side! He works for them!”—I had to get past all that—the “he’s too nice.” I was always with these bad-boy rock-’n’-roller guys. [Tom and I] were meant to be together.

What’s gotten harder?

Just dealing with the aging process. There’s a little bit of fear that comes in there from time to time. For example, when I lost yet another friend the other day (not from COVID-19), another musician, 65—so two years younger than I am—apparently from high blood pressure and a stroke. It makes you go: “Am I doing enough exercise? Am I taking my vitamins? When was my last checkup? Was he going to a doctor?” Because a lot of people don’t practice preventative medicine and self-care. When someone your own age dies, you start thinking, well, he died because he smoked. … We like to think there was a reason. We like to think we can prevent it.

Going back deep into your song library, your song “Joy” is this wonderful primal rocker about how “You took my joy and I want it back.” Do you see joy as a self-generated recipe versus an external condition?

That’s the human condition; we struggle to make our own joy. From time immemorial, we have been trying to figure out how to do that, how to achieve an altered state. That’s just a human process. It’s gotten out of hand now, with people trying to do it on a daily basis. But healers and native peoples have, for a long time, been in pursuit of that with rituals. I have my writing and my singing; I feel I have a way to connect. I do think a little good red wine helps too.

Want more from our interview with Lucinda Williams? Check out this piece in our September/October issue.