Lucinda Williams does not want you to sit quietly when she plays - Reverb

Feature: Lucinda Williams isn’t afraid of life on the road

Lucinda Williams will play the Paramount Theatre on Saturday. Photo courtesy of UMG Nashville.

Lucinda Williams will play the Paramount Theatre on Saturday. Photo courtesy of UMG Nashville.

Lucinda Williams isn’t afraid of life on the road.

Sure, the road inspires some of the songs that fill the acclaimed songwriter’s beloved records, including this year’s “Blessed.”

But its drawbacks are also enough to make an artist reconsider such a strange, wandering lifestyle. For Williams, the occasional “off” crowd is one of the biggest pitfalls of the tour-bus life.

“The hardest part about (life on the road) is when I’m doing shows and the audiences aren’t what I’d like them to be,” Williams said in a rare interview last week, advancing her show at the Paramount Theatre on Saturday.

And how does Williams like her audiences? Quiet and at attention, hanging lovingly on her every word like classical- music aficionados?

Not quite.

“I like rock clubs,” Williams said plainly. “I like when everybody’s standing up and responding and listening at the same time. I don’t like the real polite audience thing that can make you feel really paranoid. When everybody’s sitting there really quiet and listening — I don’t like that at all.”

Williams is a rebel, and you can hear it in her songs; she sounds like a more experienced Gillian Welch mashed up with Neil Young’s singular spirit. Williams’ songs have come to define a generation of cultish alt-country.

But she is also maturing, aging, whatever you want to call it — and with each passing year or two comes another record and 10 more songs to add to her catalog. Releasing three records in the last year hasn’t been easy work. Even harder is remembering the lyrics to her many songs.

Which is why Williams has taken to using a songbook in concert. It doesn’t look all that professional — Williams’ songbook perched on a music stand in front of her on stage — but her intentions are rooted in giving her fans the best show possible.

“I don’t like having to use it, either,” Williams said of the lyric book. “But it gives me the freedom to not have to worry about the lyrics. And I do have a lot of songs, and I don’t do the same exact set every single night. And I don’t want to worry about forgetting the words, because that’s not fun. It’s just what I have to do.

“Other artists have their ways of doing it, too, with teleprompters facing them that the audience can’t see. Mine’s just more obvious. …

“I don’t know how Steve Earle does it without his lyrics in front of him.”

It makes sense. Williams is adored for her lyrics, her poetic portraits. And if you’re paying to see her live, you’d like to hear her get the words right.

Williams still takes great care in writing songs, and the creation of new work is something that still enriches her as an artist and a human.

“The songwriting process for me has always been cathartic and therapeutic, and it’s a really good way of releasing some thoughts and tension and getting it on paper and turning it into a song,” she said. “I have a bunch of stuff I’ve started and need to get back to and finish, and I’ve got a bunch of ideas for new songs.

“Writing is a real necessity for me, basically. I don’t think I could exist without being able to write. It’s part of who I am.”

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Ricardo Baca is the founder and executive editor of Reverb, the co-founder of The UMS and an award-winning critic and journalist at The Denver Post.

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