Of the inimitable Wayne Hancock, PopMatters’ Steve Horowitz once wrote, “If your dictionary was hip enough to have an entry for the term ‘juke joint swing’, Wayne Hancock’s picture would be plastered beside it. The ex-Marine from Austin is the real deal, a traveling truck-stop troubadour who’s on-the-road itinerary makes Willie Nelson and Family look like pikers.” That authentic, cut-to-the-chase attitude definitely comes through loud and clear in our question-and-answer session with Hancock, in which he describes his music as “Texas Swing, no bullshit that’s fun to dance to” and explains what he meant when he called himself “a stab wound in the fabric of country music in Nashville”. PopMatters is pleased to premiere Wayne Hancock’s latest album Ride, which is being released on Bloodshot Records on 26 February 2013.
Photo by Sandy Carson
PopMatters: Can you tell us a little bit about the making of Ride? Was the process of creating the album similar to your previous efforts or were you looking to do something different from before in putting it together?
Wayne Hancock: This record just kinda came out the way it wanted to. I did not set out to write any type of record. I didn’t set out to write blues or anything like that. My life has changed drastically over the last few years and I’ve been riding my motorcycle a lot—it helps to clear my head. Maybe that helped with the creative process for this record. But these songs come from the heart.
PopMatters: There’s definitely that classic pre-rock rockabilly feel to Ride, but the album still has a fresh and vibrant tone to it. How do you balance working with a traditional sound and putting your own contemporary stamp on it?
Wayne Hancock: I don’t know. I think I write what I feel, and that is mostly what people would call classic pre-rockabilly or juke joint. And that’s fine.
PopMatters: Your lyrics cover a lot of familiar themes—head-over-heels love and broken hearts, wronging and being wronged—and your voice and music lend them a timeless quality. But then you put a twist on things, especially on “Cappuccino Boogie”. Do you find there are just some universal narratives that can be told over and over again or do you feel the need to update the way these tried-and-true themes are expressed?
Wayne Hancock: This relates to the previous question. “Cappuccino Boogie” was written a long time ago. So I don’t consciously write for a modern feel. I don’t write themes for record; I just write songs. Now that I am in my forties, I am writing differently. My music has evolved with me. Being in love in your forties is different than when you are your twenties. So these themes come from where I am today, whether I am writing about my recent experiences or memories. Everything evolves.
PopMatters: There’s a great quote in your press release: “Man, I’m like a stab wound in the fabric of country music in Nashville. See that bloodstain slowly spreading? That’s me.” Can you fill us in on the context for the quote and tell us more about your relationship with country music?
Wayne Hancock: At the time I said that, I felt like I was tearing through a wall of bullshit that was the music making industry, the machine. I don’t think I have a relationship with country music. I’m sure there are some good acts out there, but for the most part country music does not exist for me. The music sounds like people who just gave up fighting because they were up against the big corporations, so they aren’t making music anymore. They are just doing what they are told. They are owned and operated. Like puppets on a string.
PopMatters: It does seem like your music spans a lot of different genres—it’s not just vintage rockabilly or old-time country or the blues, though maybe any one of those genres can paint a mental picture of what you sound like. How useful do you think these categories are in describing your music?
Wayne Hancock: I don’t think of my music as old-timey. To me, that sounds like someone who dresses up in old-timey clothes. I thrive on big band, jazz and swing. If I had to label my music, I would say Texas Swing, no bullshit that’s fun to dance to.
PopMatters: After releasing Ride, what else do you have planned for 2013?
Wayne Hancock: We are going to hit the road a lot. We’ll be playing and putting on the best show we can for our fans. A lot of people have supported us over the years and we always want to give them a quality show. We also want to have other folks come out and enjoy our show…people who maybe haven’t seen us in a while, or not at all. Then, when I’m home I’ll get on my bike as much as possible.