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The story of Lucky starts sometime around 2007, a few years after I finished the album Be Groovy or Leave, which I wrote and recorded in my basement in 2004. When both of my kids were little, I tried writing country music, learning the form and the writers, and visiting Nashville a few times to network, write, and play a few songwriter nights. I wrote a bunch of country songs over the course of about two years, including “Perfect Just Like You,” about my daughter. I loved Nashville, but ultimately the songs and the scene didn’t feel right for me. With the exception of one song, I liked my other stuff better.
When my father died in 2009, the songs stopped coming. I was feeling lots of things, but I had no words to match the feelings. That year, I started my own internet business, which gave me more than enough to think about and work on. My guitar stayed in its case for a long time.
When the songs finally came, they felt more direct, influenced by the folks in Nashville who encouraged me to take my tongue out my cheek once in a while. I wrote a song or two a year for a few years and tried to articulate things there are no words for, like losing my dad (“Miss you”), being in awe of my wife and kids (“All That I Can Do,” “Greatest Love Story of All Time,” “Better Than Me”), and wondering how those same amazing kids could make me feel such rage (“Why Can’t I Stop Yelling?”). I refined and reworked the lyrics of these songs more than any I’ve ever written. My wife took a short work trip to Alaska during this time period, during which I imagined she’d never come back and I’d be left all alone with small kids on my lap and a banjo on my knee.
When Trump happened in 2016, my friend Jarret dared all his artsy friends to create political art. I eventually turned “Fox News Blues” into “Keep My Mouth Shut Blues,” which more accurately described what I was feeling, and finally “You’re Lucky You’re Not Alive for This,” which speaks for itself. But even while the songs were accumulating, I didn’t have any plans to record or share them until late in 2017 when, just a few days before my friend Ann died, I had the privilege of playing a few old songs for Ann, her husband Marc, and their family and friends. If music wasn’t exactly a super power of mine, at least I could provide a little bit of joy to people I cared about at a terrible time. I decided it was time to make a record. Just before recording started, I added “I Love You More” because I thought the album needed some more light, and also because I’d always wanted to record a duet with my daughter Davie. She nailed it.
Of course I was eager to work with Volney, Mark, and Dave again. Mark has been one of my favorite brothers since I was born, Volney has been one of my favorite bass players since I moved to Minnesota, and Dave has been one of my favorite collaborators since we met at the 400 Bar more than 20 years ago. The chance to work and hang out with these people more often was as exciting as the idea of making more music.
When we started recording the album in 2018, I planned to keep it simple and stripped down. When Mark heard the demos, he asked if he could add drums to a few songs, which opened things up and changed our direction for the better. It turns out some of the songs wanted to rock! Dave and I spent the next year or so contacting super-talented people we both really like hanging out with. As I often tell my son Eli: You don’t need to be the best musician; you need to be the best musician people like.
I didn’t end up calling the album Get Up! because I’m not Sly Stone, or Inarticulate, Repetitive, and Dull because I was afraid nobody would think it was ironic, or Lee Rude’s Back because, like I said, I’m not Sly Stone. I called the album Lucky because I know I am – even when the songs are sad – and it’s easy to forget.
Thank you to Dave for making Lucky creative and fun, for being an awesome collaborator and friend, for being a perfectionist when I got bored, for helping shape the project and vision, and for finding time for me in between other, higher-paying gigs. Thank you to Mark, Volney, and all the great musicians and singers on the album for adding your considerable talents to the project and making it sound better than I could have hoped. Thank you to Laura, Eli, and Davie for the songs, for making the nights out work, for telling me the project matters, and for being generally amazing. Our gang can beat up anyone else’s gang. Eli, you can have the car now.
If you’ve made it through this long story, you’re probably my Mom. Thanks Mom, I love you. I hope you like the new album.
Volney Hendrix on bass