Luke Bell Returns To Wyoming In Debut Album

Jun 18, 2016
Originally published on June 18, 2016 8:54 am
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(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOMETIMES")

LUKE BELL: (Singing) Sometimes, I'm all right. And sometimes I get you off my mind.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Luke Bell's music sounds a little like denim, cowboy boots and dancing on a floor that's covered with sawdust. He's just released a new self-titled album with a vintage sound. A fiddle and a piano and a steel guitar take you to Nashville, where the album was recorded, then to Wyoming, which is where Luke Bell grew up. At the moment, though, Luke Bell joins us from our studios in New York. Thanks so much for being with us.

BELL: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: Let's listen to the track "Glory And The Grace."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GLORY AND THE GRACE")

BELL: (Singing) I like the grasslands and the mountains and the prairies and the badlands, and the canes (ph) and the caverns and the desert sands, and the birds and the bees and the bushes and the trees, snow and the wind and the rain and the sea all underneath my feet.

SIMON: Now, is this song about the way you grew up, the home you knew or the one you want?

BELL: I would say a little bit of both. I wrote that song while I was in Wyoming but I had just gotten back right around that time, I think, from New Orleans. It's kind of the juxtaposition of, you know, enjoying both the country and the city.

SIMON: Yeah. Let's listen to another one of your songs, if we can. This is "The Great Pretender."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE GREAT PRETENDER")

BELL: (Singing) Does she know? Is it so? Is she on to my old show? If anything, I should have told her long ago.

SIMON: Where's this song come from in you, in your heart?

BELL: I wrote that in about five minutes in the evening after we were in the studio. I was looking for stuff to kind of fill in this record.

SIMON: I've never heard a singer-songwriter be quite so frank.

BELL: (Laughter) Yeah.

SIMON: It's like, a little bit like the artist that said, well, you know, I needed to fill this canvas so (laughter).

BELL: Yeah, that was - you know what? - making that record was - that was what was so interesting is it was really fun because it went that way. That song in particular is just kind of about the time, you know, in your youth that you spend going out to bars and then sort of that thing you do, that masculine thing you do where you're trying to get laid or whatever and you're traveling around and basically a shallow-based interaction, which - I don't know, am I getting into too much detail here?

SIMON: We don't need any names, if that's what you mean.

BELL: Right (laughter) OK, OK.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE GREAT PRETENDER")

BELL: (Singing) It may hurt when you realize that I am the great pretender.

SIMON: Have you kind of, like, gone to school on some other artists and tried to be inspired by them?

BELL: Oh, absolutely. I started playing at this bar called Santa's Pub in Nashville. We'd play every Sunday from 7 to 9. My buddy, Carter Brauer (ph) runs a honky-tonk night. When I first moved to town, I went and just thought it was really cool. I needed to learn a list of songs so I could sing and front the band. And so anyways, that's kind of how I started studying. I'd listen to an artist sing it and try to figure out different vocal techniques. You know, you've got all these different singers, like Lefty Frizzell, who has this real smooth...

BELL: (Singing) Always late...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALWAYS LATE")

LEFTY FRIZZELL: (Singing) Late with your kisses.

BELL: And then, Hank Williams.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'M SO LONESOME I COULD CRY")

HANK WILLIAMS: (Singing) I've never seen...

BELL: He's got real sharp...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'M SO LONESOME I COULD CRY")

WILLIAMS: (Singing) ...A night so long.

BELL: ...Kind of nasally singing voice. And also, the melodies are surprisingly hard to (laughter) follow.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'M SO LONESOME I COULD CRY")

WILLIAMS: (Singing) The moon just went behind the clouds to hide its face and cry.

SIMON: You cite a lot of people as inspirations, which is nice and humble. Do you want people to hear that in your music or are you sort of just lifting the curtain for us?

BELL: I do want people to hear that in music. I think - I think you can be lazy about it and just copy someone. But I think referencing things in a subtle way is sort of a tip of the hat. And it's also what country music is about. I wouldn't go try to build a house without any blueprints or having seen how anybody else builds a house or I'm sure I could get it done but...

SIMON: But the kitchen sink might be in the bedroom.

BELL: (Laughter) Right, right.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE BULLFIGHTER")

BELL: (Singing) I get loud when I get mad. And I get tough when I get sad.

SIMON: Luke Bell - that's his name and the name of his new album. Thanks so much for joining us.

BELL: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it, Scott.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE BULLFIGHTER")

BELL: (Singing) I'm here to play for blood boys. And I'll be here 'til the end for I am the bravest bullfighter that ever dared to pen. Yes, I am the bravest bullfighter that ever dared to pen. I've tied one on the night and I'm mean enough to fight. I'm looking for the world. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.