Lyle Lovett‘s latest album is Release Me, a cheeky reference to finally completing his contractual obligation to Curb Records, his label since 1985. Much of the disc’s material is made up of blues and Texas-styled songs that he’s played on stage for years, but had yet to record. From his tour bus, somewhere between Boise, Idaho, and Casper, Wyo., the soft-spoken musician and bandleader speaks about life on the road.
You’re playing an eclectic mix of cities and towns. I notice you played Victoria and Kelowna, B.C., but not Vancouver. I see Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall, but also a Botanical Garden in Boise and a brewery in Cooperstown, N.Y. Do you have much input in your tours, or is it an agent who schedules everything?
We have anchor dates in the major markets. But there are also smaller dates, which are off the beaten path. I always find those shows interesting.
How did the show in Kelowna go?
It was just great. It’s just a beautiful setting, at the Mission Hill Winery. And there was a wonderful crowd there for us. The only other time I played Kelowna was in the hockey arena. That was fun too, but it was different.
Going out on the road as regularly as you do, do you enjoy it, or is it a necessary evil?
It’s not at all evil, but it is necessary. It’s how I’ve always made my living, and it’s the main way I’m able to provide a living for the people I work with. Throughout my career I have consistently played 100 to 120 dates a year, which keeps us going out about half the time.
I guess I meant the actual travel, as opposed to the performances. Are you okay with life on a bus?
Oh, gosh. Getting to travel on a bus is fine. Last night we played in Casper, Wyoming, for example, and now we’re on a 1,000-mile-drive to Duluth, Minnesota. We’ll arrive there this afternoon at 4 o’clock. I was just up front with the guys in the band. I put a pot of coffee on, and we were sitting there watching the news and talking about the show last night.
Are there things you can do to make touring more enjoyable?
Travelling by bus is less taxing than going through airports every day. It’s really more efficient, if you work with a good bus company who provides good reliable drivers and good equipment. It’s a little like magic. Usually you wake up, and you’re in the next place. You know, I feel like you’re trying to get me to complain about something. But I just don’t have anything to complain about.
Actually, when I asked about things to make life on the road more enjoyable, I was asking about things that you do, rather than things you could do, to make things better.
I see, I see. Well, it’s just those things I said. Also, we get a hotel where we play every day. We don’t completely live out of the bus. The bus is just for transportation. We stay in decent places and try to take care of ourselves. There’s a physical element to what we do.
Being on the road for an extended period of time, is it timeless? It wouldn’t seem to matter what day of the week it is. Is it like being in a bubble?
It is. Of all the things that might be going on in your life, that you have to deal with off the road, going out playing dates gives you a chance to be really focused on one thing. There’s something nice to being completely immersed in an experience. It’s liberating to be dedicated.
You don’t miss being home?
If going on stage is the most important thing of the day, everything is geared towards that. So, when you walk out on that stage, no matter where it is, it feels familiar. It feels like home. There’s a sense of accomplishment that comes with being able to keep up with a schedule.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Lyle Lovett and His Acoustic Band play Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall on July 26.