Born November 1, 1957, in Klein, TX; son of William and Bernell Lovett. Education: Graduated from Texas A&M, located in College Station, TX, with a B.A. in journalism and German Addresses: Record company--MCA/Curb Records, 70 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608.

Classifying the type of music Lyle Lovett writes and plays is often difficult, if not impossible. Although his music is generally called country, Lovett incorporates jazz, blues, pop, and big band sound into his music to express the stories he tells through his songs. Sam Hurwitt writes in Salon, "Lyle Lovett has for the last decade had the dubious honor of being a country singer for people who hate country music." Hurwitt adds that Lovett's music is "a simpler, down-home kind [of country music], with educated forays into jazz and gospel and talking blues."

Lovett's style has little in common with mainstream country music. He has more in common with singers and songwriters of the seventies, such as Guy Clark, Jesse Winchester, Randy Newman, and Townes Van Zandt. These artists, along with Lovett, have the ability of "combining a talent for incisive, witty lyrical detail with an eclectic array or music...." says Stephen Thomas Erlewine in the All Music Guide.

Besides the inability to categorize Lyle Lovett into a category or type of music, he is also infamous as one of the few artists who creates all his own material, both melodies and lyrics. Apart from the 1998 release of Step Inside This House, Lovett's albums are comprised almost solely of his own original material.

Lovett was born in Klein, Texas, a town located just outside of Houston. Growing up as an only child on the family's horse farm, Lovett had ample time to pursue his two passions--riding his motorcycle and playing the guitar.

All through high school, Lovett worked at the Cycle Shack in his home town. He competed in local competitions and got his father interested in motorcycling as well. In Canadian Biker, Lovett tells Maurine Karagianis, "My dad got involved when I got my first bike and he started riding because I was interested in it. And we still ride together today." Lovett still loves motorcycling and still races from time to time.

Lovett did not consider a musical career until he began writing songs while attending Texas A&M in the late seventies. While studying journalism and German, Lovett performed covers and original songs at local folk festivals, coffee shops, and clubs. As a graduate student in Germany, Lovett continued to write and perform in Europe. He met country musician Buffalo Wayne while in Europe in 1979, who booked Lovett for a show he was organizing in Luxenbourg in 1983. At that time, Lovett was introduced to keyboardist Matt Rollings and guitarist Ray Herndon, both of whom played a central role on some of his later albums. Also, while in Europe, Lovett played with J. David Sloan and the Rogues. Lovett developed a friendship with the Rogues, who he later recruited for his sessions after signing with MCA Records.

Lovett did not pursue a musical career in earnest until her returned to the United States in 1983 when he landed a spot in the Mickey Rooney television movie Bill: On His Own. The following year, Nanci Griffith, who Lovett had interviewed for a school paper while attending Texas A&M, covered his song "If I were the Woman You Wanted" on her Once in a Very Blue Moon album. Lovett also sang on the album as well as her next, Last of the True Believers.

Also in 1984, fellow Texas songwriter/singer Guy Clark heard Lovett's demo tape. Liking what he heard, Clark directed the recording to Tony Brown of MCA Records. Brown signed Lovett in 1986 and produced his first three albums.

Later that same year, Lovett released his debut album entitled Lyle Lovett which was an immediate hit. Although the album lacked traditional Nashville sounds and included undercurrents of folk, rock, and jazz, five of the album's singles reached the country top 40, including "Cowboy Man" which reached the top ten. Erlrwine wrote, "Despite his strong showing on the country charts, it was clear from the outset that Lovett's musical tastes didn't rely on country, though the genre provided the foundation of his sound." Overall Lyle Lovett was a "spectacular debut" stated Daniel Durchholz of MusicHound Rock.

Lovett followed his debut with Pontiac, released early in 1988, which truely defined Lovett's ability to reach across the defined boundaries of country and pop/rock music. Although only two of the singles reached the country charts' top 30, Lovett gained "enough new fans in the pop mainstream to guarantee him a strong cult following," reported Erlewine. The bluesy sound of Pontiac confirmed that Lovett "was one of country's more offbeat performers," said Hugh Gregory in The Rough Guide to Rock.

This reputation was even more defined with the 1989 release of Lyle Lovett and His Large Band which won him a Grammy for best male country vocal performance. The album included the additions of guitars, a cellist, a pianist, horns, and gospel-trained backup singer, Francine Reed. Most critics "drooled over Lyle's eclecticism and sense of humor" Gregory recalled. However, his cover of Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man" received a great deal of attention and some criticism from Nashville. The song was later used in the 1993 movie, The Crying Game.

In 1990, Lovett moved to Los Angeles where he recorded his next album, Joshua Judges Ruth. Although the album was ignored by country radio as a whole, pop audiences embraced the record. Lovett received wide air play on adult alternative radio and the cable television network VH-1. Joshua Judges Ruth reached number 57 on the album charts and went gold.

Lovett reached new-found super stardom in 1993 when he married Julia Roberts, whom he met while making the Robert Altman film, The Players, where he made his acting debut. Lovett reached a level of fame he had never experienced before and became a regular in the tabloids and celebrity magazines. Also in 1993, Lovett appeared in another Altman film entitled Short Cuts.

Lovett's next album, I Love Everyboby, released in 1994, failed to reach gold status. Many critics felt it was not Lovett's best work. For example, Durchholz described the release as "Lovett's only recording made during his brief tenure as Mr. Julia Roberts has its moments of wry humor, but it mostly consists of stale leftovers and trifles...." Other critics received the album with warm reviews, although they admitted it had its problems. One critic in Fireside wrote, "The full complement of the eighteen tunes is a little overlong, but as a curio it serves its purpose well." Lovett and Roberts divorced in the spring of 1995, allowing Lovett to retreat from the spotlight to some extent. He spent the remainder of the year touring and writing.

In 1996, Lovett released The Road to Ensenada, his first album since Pontiac with a dominant country flavor. Not only did the album peak at 24 on the pop charts, but The Road to Ensenada also entered at number four on the country charts. Tha album also won Lovett a Grammy for Best Country Album.

Step Inside This House, released in 1998, marked a significant difference from all of Lovett's previous albums. In the two-disc set, Lovett stepped away from the roll of songwriter to pay homage to fellow Texas singers/songwriters. The collection of songs pays tribute to the artists Lovett feels are among his strongest influences including Townes Van Zant, Michael Martin Murphy, Walter Hyatt, Stephen Fromholtz, and Guy Clark. Although Lovett had considered devoting an album to songs by Texas-based singer/songwriters since he took part in the Nanci Griffith album Other Voices, Other Rooms, he was not spurred on to doing the album until the deaths of two of his biggest influences, Townes Van Zandt, who died New Year's Eve 1996 and Walter Hyatt, who died suddenly in the ValuJet airliner crash in Florida in 1996. "That sort of determined the theme of the album really," said Lovett to Michael McCall of LAUNCH Music. "It was a difficult year in a lot of ways, and this seemed like the most appropriate way to deal with it."

Although Lovett did not write the songs on the album, he sang them with the same intensity of his own songs. Michael Evans of the Oregonian commented, "Equipped with a dry vocal delivery (and a sense of humor), Lovett not only paid ample tribute to such idols as Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark, but also sang their personal and often provocative story songs as if they were his own." Lovett himself admits he chose songs that had a great influence on him. "It's really a personal list of songs for me," Lovett told Michael McCall. "There was such a long list of songs that I could've done once I started compiling all the Texas songs that mean a lot to me. I lest some witers out that I love, but every one of these songs were favorites of mine long before I ever went to Nashville."

Lovett continued to strive for change with the release of Live in Texas,his first live performance which was recorded in San Antonio, Texas. For the recording, Lovett was again joined by his acclaimed large band. Critics raved at Lovett's versitility and ability to record a live album. "Lyle Lovett is one of those rare performers who pretty much sounds exactly the same live in concert as he does in the studio," wrote Mary Jo DiLonardo of CNN Interactive. "Because of his stark, unmistakable vocal style, he doesn't require the magic of studio enhancements to make his voice richer or more resonant."

Overall, Lovett continues to have a story to tell. "My music is all about communication," Lovett told Karagianis. "There's always one person that would understand a song better than anybody else ... the songs I write are directed specifically at somebody. So it's really a way to talk to somebody--and I think songs have the added emotional impact of the music to go with what the words are saying, which can be a very powerful thing."

by Julie Sweet

Lyle Lovett's Career

During college, started performing folk music festivals, coffee shops, and clubs; continued to write and perform while a graduate student in Europe; signed with MCA Records, released debut self-titled album, 1986; released defining, acclaimed album Pontiac, 1988; released Lyle Lovett and His Large Band, 1989; released Joshua Judges Ruth, an album embraced by pop and adult alternative audiences, 1990; released country-flavored The Road to Ensenada, 1996; released tribute album to Texas singers and songwriters entitled Step Inside This House, 1998 all on MCA.

Lyle Lovett's Awards

Grammy Awards for best male country vocal performance for Lyle Lovett and His Large Band,1989; best country album for Road to Ensenada, 1996.

Famous Works

Further Reading



Visitor Comments Add a comment…