"So what's new?"
Lyle Lovett laughs at the opening question in his first interview since the big event.
Lovett, 35, has written wickedly funny--and disarmingly poignant--songs about the nature of love and marriage over the last seven years, yet more probably has been written about him in the last four weeks than during the rest of his career.
Who wasn't intrigued by his surprise June 27 marriage to actress Julia Roberts?
The assumption has been that they met two years ago during the filming of Robert Altman's film "The Player." But Lovett says they met only a few weeks before the wedding at St. James Lutheran Church in Marion, Ind.
No one was more surprised by the news than Lovett's country-pop audience. If you go by his lyrics, the shy, self-effacing Texan seemed unusually wary of marriage.
Sample lyrics from 1987's "She's No Lady":
The preacher asked her
And she said, "I do."
The preacher asked me
And she said "Yes, he does too."
And the preacher said,
"I pronounce you 99 to life."
"Son, she's no lady, she's your wife."
Accompanied by his new bride, Lovett--as good-natured and down-to-earth as ever--spent most of Tuesday afternoon in a Hollywood studio, recording a duet with soul great Al Green for a country-meets-soul compilation album due next year.
During a break, Lovett--who'll be at the Universal Amphitheatre on Saturday and at Humphrey's in San Diego on Tuesday and Wednesday--sat on a couch in an upstairs office and talked about songwriting and--oh yes--that big event.
Question: Were you surprised at all the attention the marriage has received?
Answer: I guess I was a little, but the getting married part of it couldn't have been better.
Q: You mean the ceremony and the day itself?
A: That and just deciding to do it. Meeting her is unlike anything that had happened to me before. She's so wonderful. It was one of those immediate things that you hear about.
Q: Is the story true about you meeting her on the set of the movie "The Player"?
A: No, I didn't and I was disappointed (we didn't meet then). What happened is we ended up playing a few concerts while she was shooting her part.
Q: How did you meet then?
A: I was looking forward to meeting her because someone called me a couple of years ago and said they had seen her on some movie premiere or other event on one of the Nashville Network shows. They asked her who her favorite country singer was and she said me. I thought that was really something and wanted to write her a note.
Q: Did you write it?
A: No, I was too chicken (laughs).
Q: What happened next?
A: I was doing some tour press (earlier this year) and Susan Sarandon's brother, who is a journalist on the St. Petersburg Times, told me he had just gotten back from Costa Rica with Susan and Julia and that Julia had all my albums. So this time I decided I should call her and I did.
Q: How have you adjusted to all the attention? Has it been intrusive?
A: Well, I certainly realized who it was I was getting involved with and what she does . . . and the attention she gets. But I just knew getting married was the right thing to do and I couldn't be happier.
Q: Do you feel at all strange in concert doing some of the old songs that poked fun at marriage. . . something such as "She's No Lady"?
A: No, I have been having fun with all that, setting up the songs a little bit differently . . . changing the stories a lot.
Q: How would you have described your attitude about marriage in the past? From some of the songs, someone might have thought you were wary or pessimistic.
A: I don't really think the songs reflect a pessimistic outlook. If anything, I am really just trying to be funny in the song "She's No Lady." I like to look at things with a sense of humor. In fact, I feel most of my songs are hopeful and I was always hopeful myself. Meeting Julia just made everything make sense for me. It sort of justified all the hopefulness I had always felt. Before, though, it was just a concept. She made it real.
Q: What is your main creative interest? Singing, acting, writing, performing?
A: For me, it always starts with the song. If I didn't have my songs to do, I'm not sure I would want to stand up on stage and sing at all.
Q: Does writing come easily?
A: Never. Writing songs I think is the most difficult thing for me in my life and it always has been. Everytime I write a song, I think it could be the last one I ever write.
Q: Were you nervous about getting into acting . . . your debut in "The Player"?
A: Oh, sure. It was like the first day of a new school for me . . . where you don't know anybody and everybody else knows everybody else. But Altman was so wonderful to work with. The reason I did it wasn't just the idea of making a movie or trying to act. It was strictly because I enjoy new experiences and love working with artists who are really committed to what they do.
It was a great experience. Altman encourages you to try things yourself and if he feels like you need some help, he'll step in, very supportive.
Q: Your musical style and tastes are very eclectic and yet very personal. Who are some of the songwriters who influenced you?
A: There have been so many, but I guess the writers who helped shape my definition of what a song should be or say were the Texas writers like Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Willis Alan Ramsey, Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, Michael Murphey, so many. I found myself attracted to the narrative nature of some of their songs.
Q: Is the shyness on stage and the eccentric haircut part of a persona you deliberately developed--or did it come about naturally?
A: Well, I guess the haircut is a trademark, but it was certainly unintentional. The reason for it originally was I went on this tour with Bonnie Raitt for about two months and I didn't get a haircut, and all of a sudden people were writing about my hair--and I thought, this is a pretty easy way to (get attention). So I sort of left it.
But the rest of what you see is me. I never had the kind of personality where I just sort of walk into a room and take over. I have always been quieter. But I feel real comfortable with the audiences. They seem to know my songs better than ever and it's like visiting with old friends. Besides, I always thought that anyone who would want to come to one of my shows is someone I would enjoy sitting around and talking to.