For the record, this project was fun for Lovett

March 31, 2003|By HARTFORD COURANT

Lyle Lovett is a musician, sure - one of the smartest and wittiest around, in fact - but he's also a music fan.

He's a fan of the standards on his latest album, Smile, a collection of tunes he has recorded for various movies since 1992.

It's telling that the word "fun" pops up a lot in a recent conversation with Lovett, who answers his cell phone somewhere near Santa Barbara, Calif., where he's driving himself to a gig. It's as if the Texas singer is still a little awed that he makes music for a living.

Let's start with the record. Compiling a collection of soundtrack tunes was something Lovett had wanted to do for years.

"Kind of from the beginning of doing these `one-off' projects, I thought to myself, I hope I do enough of these to be able to put a record together some day," Lovett says. "I was pleased and actually surprised by how well these songs go together."

The 12 tunes on Smile are standards on the order of "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You," from last year's Kissing Jessica Stein, and "Moritat (Mack the Knife)" from 1994's Quiz Show.

"They were specific requests from movie people. I'm especially proud of it in that way, because these are songs I never would have thought to record," Lovett says.

"It sort of gave me license to record songs I wouldn't have gone near."

Despite the fact that movie bigshots were requesting that he do the songs, Lovett says, it's a little nerve-wracking to record classic songs that have definitive interpretations by Ray Charles or Louis Armstrong, among others.

"My first question is always, why? Why do they want me to record `What'd I Say?' " he says. "You really have to work on your powers of rationalization. Were I not being hired to do it, were somebody not saying, `No, we want you to do this, this is a job,' that was really the only way I could rationalize it."

Lovett himself is no slouch as a songwriter, either, and fans can expect an album of new material in September.

Will the record feature the Large Band?

"It's kind of just more of my songs. The singers and horns will be on a couple tracks, for sure. It may be - I'm kind of going out on a limb to say this - it may be more country-influenced, but I'm not sure."

He thinks about that statement for a moment, and amends it.

"I was going to say that it's more country-influenced, but I don't know if it really is," he says.

Either way, he says, making the new record has been - that's right - "fun."

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