Crouched on a suitcase full of tall tales, wearing a bandanna crammed with irreverent lyrics, and swinging a right hand to slay even the harshest rhythm critic, Ray Wylie Hubbard, aka the Wylie Lama, is one of the old timers and a long-established member of country royalty. Keen to get the lowdown on his 2013 UK Tour, I poured myself a bourbon and spent some time with the unofficial King of the Lone Star State.
Geeks Unleashed: As far as I can tell you are a die-hard Texas man, but you were born in Soper, Oklahoma. Which state is your true spiritual home?
Ray Wylie Hubbard: Since my spirit is still inside me for the time being, I would have to say Texas is my home but I do love playing them Okie gigs.
GU: A bit of a two-part question this. Firstly, what is the back story to the Ballad of the Crimson Kings and secondly, did the skies open in a ray of light when you came up with “then there are those condemned by the gods to write, they sparkle and they fade away?”
RWH: I like the idea of a band whose purpose is to bleed when they play rather than just show off, and of course the best band name ever was King Crimson (except for Quick Silver Messenger Service). So using a band as a metaphor, it seemed apparent there are those who have blind faith and others who will not pray and then there are those condemned to write… whether they ever have any success at it or not. Explains why I still do this.
GU: Do you have a career highlight?
RWH: There have been too many, but here’s partial list: singing with Ringo at Radio City Music Hall at his birthday party; seeing my son jam with Joe Walsh on Snake Farm; playing guitar with Manse Lipscomb in when I was 19, playing poker with Freddie King, drinking with Townes Van Zant; smoking with Willie Nelson; doing coke with Waylon Jennings; writing with Ronnie Dunn, drinking with Lightning Hopkins; doing the Jimmy Fallon TV show, backing up BP Fallen; hanging out with Tony Joe White; opening for Ernest Tubb; scoring Ron Shock some codeine…yeah I’ve had a few.
GU: That’s the spirit! Which of your albums has given you the greatest satisfaction?
RWH: Loco Gringo’s Lament was the first album I did that didn’t come with excuses.
GU: What make of guitar do you use?
RWH: My favorite is a 58 Gibson Southern Jumbo body with a 49 J45 neck and an old 60’s Dearmond pickup. A cat here in Wimberley named Tony Nobles put it all together for me. If you’re gonna make a Frankenstein monster you need inspiration and lightning.
GU: Cool man, I can get down with that. My battered old strat is a hybrid monstrosity. Anyway… where and what is the infamous John T’s Country Store?
RWH: It is a honky tonk west of San Antonio in Helotes, Texas. Willie [Nelson] got his start there.
GU: What do you make of popular music today?
RWH: I really don’t listen to popular music or country at all. I prefer to listen to my friends like James McMurtry, Hayes Carll, Slaid Cleaves, Chris Robinson. Seems it is pretty sad state of affairs when rock or country stars are decided by a game show.
GU: And I quote, “just has three chords, hasn’t even got a minor in it and its kinda embarrassing.” What are your actual thoughts behind Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother?
RWH: Aw man. It is the song that refuses to die! I wrote it as an answer to ‘ Haggard’s Fighting Side of Me, and lo and behold the people I wrote it for to make fun of start singing it!
GU: S’pose you could call it free publicity? Tell me a little about the bands and session musicians you work with.
RWH: I’m at that age where its ‘get the gig..then get a band.’ I do solo gigs or go out with drummer Rick Richards or Kyle Scheider, or I’ll add Lucas my son on guitar. If I need a full band I will get George Reiff or Jon Michael on bass. For recording I use these guys, plus different guitar players who will work best for each particular song: Deric O’Brian, Billy Cassis, Audley Freed, Gurf Morlix, Llyod Maines, Brad Rice. Just how I work.
GU: In reference to Conversation with the Devil, are you more of a see the light kinda guy or have you felt the heat?
RWH: I prefer spiritual awakening to religious conversion, and don’t want to commit to anything too fast so I’m kind of a slug when it comes to things like that.
GU: What’s next for Ray Wylie Hubbard? And when will we see you in the UK?
RWH: I’ve been writing songs with other cats, and got my Grit and Groove Festival in April (which you should come to). I’m also kinna half-ass writing a book and working on another screenplay for a film. As for the UK, I am working to come over there in the fall of 2013.
GU: We’ll see if we can get somebody to cover it!
RWH: Hey thanks for thinking of me. Hope the answers work for you.
More information on Ray can be found here: http://www.raywylie.com/