When your name is Lincoln Durham, you’ve been playing guitar since you were a teen and Ray Wylie Hubbard chooses to mentor you…your career path is all but chosen for you. Mixing the sounds and vibes of blues, rock and country with a voice and lyrics that grab at the soul of each who listens, Lincoln Durham is poised for a breakout 2011. Peek into the creative mind of Lincoln Durham with these 20 Questions as he delves into the imaginative stories behind his songs, how he’s trying to add fiddle to his unique shows and why Ray Wylie Hubbard should have his own show on the History Channel.
1. Since the release of your rousing debut EP, fans have been clamoring for a full-length album. What’s going on with that project and when can folks expect it?
The album is really close to being finished and has been for a while. We had a spell where we had to pause for more money. During that time, I’ve written more tunes that we’re really excited about and might be better suited for the debut album. So we’re going back in studio in May to add the new songs and wrap it up. So as it is right now, we’re looking at a summer or early fall release. I now know what the term labor of love really means. But, we don’t want to settle for anything less then great and we hope the time and care invested in this record reflects as much. Everyone has been so patient and we hope to make it worth the wait.
2. Ray Wylie Hubbard has served as a mentor and producer for you. How did you come to meet the Wylie Lama and what has it been like working with him?
I met Ray at one of his New Years Eve Gigs in Grapevine, TX at a place called Love and War. A friend of mine, Jake, was insistent that I meet him even though I was really hesitant. I didn’t want to beat Ray down. But, I did meet him and that’s where it all started. Ray has been a big inspiration in my life. One of the biggest. He has taken me under his wing and taught me everything I know… really. Both musically and otherwise.
Any cool, greasy thing I come up with was seeded there by Ray. Working with him, George Reiff and Rick Richards in studio is a melding of musical genius that makes you feel flat out unworthy to watch, much less take part in. It’s been a great experience working with Ray and wouldn’t want anyone else for the job. He’s been a great friend, mentor and I’m indebted to him for any success I have.
3. Name association:
-Ryan Bingham – Gravel
-Walt Wilkins – Lion
-Hayes Carll – Storyteller
-Kevin Welch – Jersey Devil
-Jason Eady – Fellow foot tapper
-Jamie Wilson – Golden voice
-Matt King – Unfalteringly cool
-Seth James – Fistfight
4. You have a unique onstage set-up as you’ve been known to play with just your acoustic guitar and a porch board, yet make the room sound like a 5-piece band is coming at the audience. What inspired you to make music in this manner and not with a full band? At any given gig, what does your rig consist of?
Ray stressed to me early on to be self-contained and then you can add parts as you need. So I started playing and tapping my foot on this porchboard. Later I thought, “What if I learn the harmonica?” Then I added a tambourine to the mix. As tapping on the porchboard and doing everything else got easier I started double tapping here and tapping on the four there. Now it’s just this thing that’s just short of a trained monkey with cymbals between his legs but it seems to work for me. I constantly struggle with the notion of a band but I really love the solo thing and I guess you’ve got to be different somehow.
My routine rig consists of two mics…a regular and a low-fi. Three guitars, resonator, Gibson J-45 and a Silvertone Archtop… harmonicas, a slide, a porchboard, a sexdrive pedal and a tubescreamer pedal. Oh and an old projector speaker for an amp. Whatever is greasy and out-of-tune. The fiddle is about to make an appearance as well. Doing some writing on it now so stay tuned!
5. You gigged as a duo with Liz Foster of the Trishas under the name Liz and Lincoln for a couple years. What did you dig most about the duo format?
The duo format was really great because it was something that not many people were doing. It gave the listener a diverse sound of voices and great harmonies. We’d do these back and forth chants that I think were haunting and cool.
6. Your sound is very rootsy and bluesy. How are audiences that are unfamiliar responding to you?
They seem to be responding really well. The thing I dig the most is that a lot of people are having trouble describing or putting a label on it. I hope to keep making music that’s difficult to quickly put into one genre. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad strategy but I want people to have to think about it for a bit. Then if they decide, hopefully the next song or album will make the rethink.
7. As a native of Itasca, you’ve made more than your fair share trips south on I-35 through West. As good as the Czech Stop can be at times, surely you have informed your fellow musicians that they can find better kolaches in town…right?
Well, actually I remember me and my grandpa making runs down to West all the time. As far as kolaches go, the Czech Stop was our regular spot.
8. Favorite touring memory of the following towns:
-Dallas- I was with Ray and although I lived in Dallas for about 5 years, I didn’t even know where the Grassy Knoll was. So Ray gave me a JFK tour through downtown and south Dallas that was second only to the History Channel.
-Austin- Opening for Ray at Antone’s. First of all, it’s Antone’s. Second, it’s opening for Ray. Third, Rick Richards and Lucas Hubbard joined in with me. It was a great night, broken string and all.
-Ft. Worth – I recently played a gig where it was 20 degrees while I was playing. The stage was outside, I’ll add. Despite the temperature, the place was still packed. 3 hours and a dozen coffees later, the crowd was still cold, but they were also sufficiently rocked.
-Houston – Playing the Mucky Duck with my good friends Lisa Morales and Matt King.
-Corpus Christi – Playing at Brewster Street and watching the Hooks play ball.
-Luckenbach – Playing Ray Wylie Hubbard’s Second Grit n’ Groove Festival. It was surreal to be on the lineup with such amazing talent. I also had a rooster crow during an entire song.
-San Marcos – I was playing Cheatham Street Warehouse opening for Wade Bowen, I think. After the show we had gotten pinned in the parking lot so we drove about 100 yards down the railroad tracks to the street. I felt alive.
-Oklahoma City – A night at the Blue Door and hanging out with a local great, Terry Ware.
9. You’ve taken up a regular Tuesday residency at Gruene Hall. What do you enjoy most about having a weekly gig at the same joint? And, what does it mean to you to have taken up a residency in the most historic dancehall in the state?
Having a residency is always cool because it’s like playing a home game. It allows you to try new songs, half written songs and songs that you probably won’t try again and the crowd seems to be perfectly fine with your experiments. The Gruene gigs have been amazing. The vibe there feels like home and the musical history is amazingly rich. It’s always an honor to say you’re playing there. Those gigs have been song swaps with a caliber of talent that I wouldn’t expect to even answer my call. But they do answer and come to play along side me. It’s an honor for me and I think a really fun show for the audience.
10. Everyone has great gigs and nightmare gigs. Without naming names or giving away details unless you want to…describe one of each that you’ve had.
Wow, I’ve worked with a lot of great venues. If I have to pick one great gig, I would say it was at Hat Tricks in Lewisville opening for Carolyn Wonderland. Tony and Joe Avezzano and the whole crew treated me like a rock star. It was a great show and night. There have been really bad ones too.
One that comes to mind wasn’t really a bad gig at all…but it was unusual (laughs). I had to play under a gazebo that had 3 wasp nests about a foot over my head. Literally a foot over my head. So I spent half of my set-up time, spraying wasps and running. I had wasp spray and dead wasps falling at my feet for two hours.
11. Like many other kids that grow up wanting to play the guitar, you were seduced by the sounds of Stevie Ray Vaughan and set about conquering a Strat. Your earliest bands were 3-pieces with you wailing Stevie type solos out front. How many hours a day were you woodshedding and practicing during those early days? What do you remember most about those early bands?
Not enough hours of woodshedding, that’s for sure (laughs). That’s probably why I was never really good at it. Back then, I had big dreams, not enough work ethic and no direction. So most of my memories of the trio thing was being under-rehearsed and grueling five hour nights. I look back on those days with my head cocked and in morbid awe (laughs).
12. Related to that, I’m assuming that your love of Stevie lead you back to the roots of blues which in turn has influenced your current music. What is a blues artist that may be overlooked among the Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf’s of the world that you feel more people should know about?
My biggest influences from that era are Son House and Fred McDowell. The cool thing is, I think that the youth are starting to overlook these guys less and less. I think a lot of kids are starting to dig and find.
13. Before picking up the guitar in high school, you won the Texas State Youth Fiddle Championship. Do you ever pick up a fiddle and start sawing on some Bob Wills tunes just for fun?
I didn’t for a long time, but I’ve recently decided to add the fiddle to the mix at my shows. So I’m writing one song right now that is solely on the fiddle. I may work on doing a couple. We’ll see how it goes with adding a fiddle while singing and foot tapping though. I think I can. Although my grandma is always wanting to hear some “Orange Blossom Special”, “Faded Love” etc.
14. Due to your very stripped, groove-based sound…what one song or album guilty pleasure in your music library would really surprise people?
Without a doubt my weirdest but favorite guilty pleasure is the scores of Danny Elfman. I’m an obsessed fan of the off-center and dark teaming of Tim Burton and Danny Elfman. The Edward Scissorhands soundtrack is what I do my best thinking to.
15. Stories behind the following songs:
-Reckoning Lament – I’m a domino player. 42 to be specific. I had an unsettling dream about all these ne’er-do-well characters playing dominoes. So the next morning, I wrote that song.
-Living This Hard – That song is a commentary on my youth… with embellishments (laughs).
-Love Song – My attempt at a love song. Not my forte. So I wrote a love song about writing a love song… and called it “Love Song”. Clever, I thought (laughs).
-How Does a Crow Fly – I was feeling really down on myself and I was trying to liken the way I felt to something so I picked a crow. They look pretty ratty sometimes. Then I thought if I was a crow and wanted to better myself, maybe I would want to become an eagle. Because eagles seem pretty hoity-toity.
-Mud Puddles – I saw a drifter walking from Dallas to Austin and thought, that can’t be fun. So instead of picking him up, I wrote a song. I hope he made to Austin though.
-Truckers Love Song – My dad is the one who got me into music. He was also a trucker. So for a long time, he didn’t get to see what he had created musically because he was always on the road. During that time I wrote a song about it and turned it into a love song. I guess I do have one love song. Anyway, it’s about a trucker on the road, always missing his girl.
-People of the Land – That was a derogatory from a long time ago given to farmers. So I wrote that with farmers and blue collar workers in mind. Kind of a money can’t by character type song.
-Blue Ridge – I saw a show on Discovery or something one time about when they were cutting the train tracks through the Blue Ridge mountains. A lot of people died because of the danger of the work, but they didn’t have the means to take them home so they would burry them under the tracks. So, I thought that was a cool idea for a song. Death under train tracks. Honestly, I can’t even remember if they actually said they would bury them under the tracks or if I made that up. I confess that since this is in writing and someone could fact check me. If I made it up, even better.
-Mama – A song I wrote in desperation. I didn’t know what else to do or where else to turn so I wrote. It’s what I usually do when faced with life’s problems.
-Georgia Lee – That is a song about a girl that I never met and completely made up. But I think she’s really cool.
16. When writing songs, do you find yourself finding a melody first and then tacking lyrics that fit it or squeezing a melody around lyrical themes you’ve already fleshed out?
I’ve done it both ways, but the most natural way is that the melody and basic idea of the song come at the same time. I usually find a melody and start scatting to it. Words just kinda form and usually they make sense. Then I build the story around that structure. So, it really takes place simultaneously for me. Usually when I have a song with no melody, it comes out more stale and lifeless.
17. Born in Whitney and raised in Itasca, I’m sure you grew up going to Lake Whitney. That’s a place where me and my buddies used to take my best friend’s dad’s pontoon boat out on and engage in all manner of on the water type shenanigans. We were even once chased by the cops for jumping off the cliffs at Lofer’s Bend. What are your fondest Lake Whitney memories?
(laughs) I have Lake Whitney memories for sure! We’ve been chased, hunted, stuck and stranded but I would say my most fondest…instead of infamous was crappie fishing with my dad out in the dead branches in a little metal boat. We never caught much, if anything, but it was always fun trying to get your line untangled from a branch five feet above the water.
18. Rapid fire:
-Oddest song request you’ve received? Friends in Low Places.
-BBQ or Tex-Mex? Tex-Mex. We live next to Curra’s and it can be dangerous.
-La Quinta or Motel 6? I don’t think it would be very rock and roll cool of me to say La Quinta, but I’ve stayed at both and… La Quinta (laughs).
-Do you have a nickname? Linc, Stinkin’ Lincoln, Abe, Colon, Continental, oh and Sir Awesome.
-Truck stop or convenience store? Truck stop. There’s hidden treasures in roadside truck stops. Like armadillos drinking beer and Roy Clark cassette tapes.
19. Our musical litmus test involves asking you…what’s your favorite George Strait song and why?
“Amarillo by Morning” written by Terry Stafford and Paul Fraser because I used to play it in the Opry band I was in when I was a kid. So, I have fond memories of the tune. I even make mention of it in “Trucker’s Love Song”.
20. The music you are making is rootsy, bluesy and soulful. It is turning ears across Texas and beyond. Why do you think people are clamoring and hungry for your brand of music?
I have no idea! To be honest, I never feel like a real musician and am constantly second guessing my music. But, I’m really glad that people are into the tunes and what I’m trying to do. It seems like it’s picking up steam and I have the fans and people that are backing me to thank for it. No musician would be anywhere without the loyal supporters and my success belongs to them.