Singer-songwriter

Nick Lowe 

Singer-songwriter

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Veteran singer-songwriter Nick Lowe can truly say he's been there. The guy started playing pub rock in the U.K. in the '70s and was a co-founder of Stiff Records, working with many of the label's punk bands. Now, the creator of hits like "Cruel to Be Kind" and "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding," has settled into a groove with the Americana-influenced sound of his new album, At My Age. Lowe recently spoke, via phone from his home in England, about his upcoming tour, where he'll perform his first solo appearance in Cleveland in more than a decade. I know you haven't been to Cleveland in more than 10 years. I'm sure it wasn't intentional, but is touring a bit of a chore for you these days?

Well, yeah, I suppose it has changed a bit. It's a young man's game. I can only really hack it for three weeks, and that's my limit. I used to love it in the old days. Back then, the show was an unwelcomed interruption to the day's activities. Now, it's the highlight of the day. The things I used to like about touring are either unavailable to me now or of no interest. It's quite different now. I have a different audience now. In a way, I enjoy it more now, but it's in small doses. At My Age has been called your "second coming." What do you think about that?

I'm very flattered to be spoken of in those terms. I've had a little run of three or four records which have been very well-received. It's a different approach from what I was known for back in the day. I consciously tried to figure out a way of re-presenting myself and recording myself and writing for myself, which would take advantage of the fact that I was getting older. I wanted to use it as an asset rather than being embarrassed about it. You've talked about your writing style as "a diary set to music." Can you explain that a bit?

That was a misprint. It's amazing how many people have picked up on that. I didn't think people read those [bios] very closely. I said the opposite. I don't set my diary to music. I'm more of the Randy Newman brigade. I'm not comparing myself to the great man, but he always says, "Don't blame me. They're just characters I make up." I know what it's like to have your heart broken. When I write a song about that, I can draw from personal experience. But, generally, it's just pop music and not necessarily factual. I use phrases and words that I've heard people say. None is truly original. There are some people who do put their diary to music. Personally, I find it quite tedious to listen to, and I never know what they're talking about. Your music gets classified as Americana. Does that seem strange?

I am aware of it. I sort of understand that. I come from that generation where all we love is American music. I loved what happened to American music when it got over here. Let's face it, Beatles and Stones and Kinks and the Who were all heavily influenced by American music, even though they seemed to be so quintessentially English. I come from that generation. It is curious. I try not to do slavish copies of things. I love country-western and R&B and soul and blues. I like to put two or three styles together and mix them up and not be too reverential. You've got to mess with it and do your own thing with it. Elvis Costello is the same. He was absolutely crazy about it, way more than me. He could sit down and play hundreds of different songs. You used to be at the forefront of the rock scene. Do you miss those days?

No. I don't miss it. It was very good fun. We really did have a lot of fun. We were very aware that our time had come. That was what was exciting. There was some invisible voice that said, "Step forward kid; it's your turn. Let's see what you've got." We really didn't know what we were doing. Everybody had so many good ideas. There seemed to be unlimited studio time. If something didn't work, we'd just toss it away and head on to the next thing. It was also kind of counterproductive. That wasn't the point of that time. It was a time of upheaval in the music business, and we were young and full of sap, so it was easy to be ambitious.

jniesel@clevescene.com

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