More than anything, I hope you’re in good health. Your battle with hepatitis C in the early 2000s has been well documented.
Yes, I’m about to begin the tour tomorrow. I’m in Dallas now, where my wife Nancy and I live. It was a long struggle—20 something years of dealing with that disease. I’ve become involved in spreading awareness of liver cancer. I’m feeling really well and doing my part to help others that might have the same problems (I had).
Congratulations on 25 years as a solo artist. What have been some of the highlights of the past quarter century?
It’s been a good run. Just making my first solo album was one of the biggest of all. The first of the three records I made with Stephen Bruton, who we lost to cancer about five years ago. A lot of the lessons I learned from Stephen I carry with me still. Bruton had a beautiful feel for music. I can’t say one bad thing about him except that I wish he was still with us.
Recording A Man Under the Influence with Chris Stamey. Being signed to Bloodshot Records. Playing with heroes like Ian Hunter and Bruce Springsteen. Here we are 40 something years later, so that’s pretty cool.
Are Peter Buck (R.E.M.) and Scott McCaughey (The Minus Five, Young Fresh Fellows)—your Burn Something Beautiful collaborators—part of the current touring band?
Collaborators have always lent something to make my vision more developed, the sound more concise and focused than maybe I would have if left to my own devices.
We don’t get to tour as much as we’d like, because their (Buck and McCaughey's) schedules are pretty intense. We’re doing a July show in Marina Del Rey California, and then up to Portland, Oregon, to write the new record. It might be a more acoustic sounding album.
I would think there would be a lot of musicians wanting to work with you, especially the folks in Austin, Texas.
I get to work with a lot of great guys. Living in Dallas now, it’s harder to get down to Austin. We travel so much. We just finished a solo tour, and 32 shows in 45 days in 10 different countries with a band from Italy. We’re constantly working, so it’s hard to keep one band because I’m trying to do so many things. Eventually I want to write a book, a “mythical memoir.”
Is there anyone you’d love to work with?
I wanted to work with Bowie, of course. I’ve never worked with Daniel Lanois or Brian Eno—I’d love to work with them. I’m doing two albums next year, one with the Italian band, Don Antonio.
You were in some good bands (Rank and File, True Believers) prior to going solo in 1992. Do any of those songs still make it into the set list?
On this tour, half is really obscure things and a lot of old gems—an acoustic and electric set. (As far as the band songs), I’d like to revisit them some day. For me it’s always been about looking ahead, and I haven’t had time to really reflect.
You come from a very musical family. Who inspired you most during your formative years, in or outside the family?
My father was number one. He sang in a mariachi band in the ‘30s and played guitar. My older brothers Pete, Coke and Phillip influenced me in a way I wasn’t aware of. When I started having my own bands, I applied things I learned from them—big groups of percussion, strings, horns, keyboards.
Also, Ian Hunter, Bowie, Iggy Pop, the Dolls. Iggy was fascinating—I couldn’t get enough Iggy Pop. All those bands were great, but Iggy and Mott were very special.
I saw you in Pensacola about four years ago, and it was one of the most exciting and energetic rock ‘n roll shows I can recall. What can we expect this go round?
It’s gonna be a little more varied, stylistically all over the place. Not rocking so much as getting the songs across. In the acoustic set, I’ll do more talking about the songs and the stories.
Have you heard any music lately we should know about?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Cuban, Puerto Rican, the Fania All Stars. We got a bunch of 45s while we were on the road, bought every 45 we could find. Just digging those.
Do you think the current president has any Alejandro Escovedo songs on his iPod?
Judging by the way he moved to his inaugural music, I doubt if he listens to any music. But let’s hope he listens to Ted Nugent. He deserves that (laughs).
Alejandro Escovedo performs Friday, June 30, at Pensacola’s Vinyl Music Hall. Learn more at AlejandroEscovedo.com.