Lucero’s music sounds like something you’d hear at a dive bar. The Memphis band has played gritty country-rock for two decades. Frontman Ben Nichols writes sad songs about women, work, and whiskey.
Nichols says those lyrics came from his own life.
"A lot of Lucero’s earlier stuff is autobiographical to a fault probably," he says. "Maybe it’s a little too bare, a little too honest if that's possible."
More Inside Track features from CPR's OpenAir:
- After His Breakthrough, Leon Bridges Pushes Beyond 1960s Soul
- Petal Is Angry, But Optimistic On 'Magic Gone'
- On 'Hollow Ground,' Cut Worms Is A One-Man Vocal Group
- Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks Wear Different Musical Disguises On 'Sparkle Hard'
- After Years On The Road, Hinds Are Wiser And Stronger On 'I Don't Run'
The band just released its ninth album, “Among the Ghosts.” The songs are still autobiographical, but the story’s changed.
Nichols isn’t spending his days in bars chasing women and drinking whiskey anymore. He’s a happily married husband and father. That’s had a big effect on his outlook.
"Before, it didn’t matter," he says. "Now I actually have to care about the direction the world's going and what the future actually holds."
There’s still plenty of pain and heartache on “Among the Ghosts.” Nichols sings about leaving his daughter to go on tour. That's something he’s done for years, but now it’s not as easy to hit the road.
Then he goes beyond his own life to sing about family. He takes ideas from Civil War soldiers’ letters he read on the internet on the song “To My Dearest Wife."
"The stories might be about other people, but there’s a whole lot of me in there. They're the stories that I like to hear every night, like to sing every night."
It’s not just the lyrical themes that are different on “Among the Ghosts.” The band revamped its sound. It’s a lot more modern now.
"I wanted some of that Cure-type, '80s alternative-type synthesizers on there to give it a nostalgic vibe," he says. "I'm a sucker for nostalgia."
Even with the changes on "Among the Ghosts," Nichols still loves Lucero’s old songs. He’s just glad they don’t reflect his own life anymore.
"I’m actually proud of what I was writing way back when, and I can still sing it and mean it 20 years later. But I’m glad I’m not having to write them right now."
Listen to this episode of Inside Track via the link above. Subscribe to the Inside Track podcast for more new music discovery.