Alejandro Escovedo: "Getting Older Every Day, But I'm Digging It"
Alejandro Escovedo is one of Texas' most gifted and versatile singer-songwriters, with the soul and background of a punk rocker, the work ethic of a tradesman, and the undying faith in rock and roll of two of his closest contemporaries -- also men of uncommon emotional range and teeth-gritting tenacity -- Bruce Springsteen and Joe Ely. He is also a demigod in his adopted hometown of Austin. Some musicians are lucky to appear on one episode of Austin City Limits; Escovedo has three under his belt, including in the current season.
Photos by Todd Wolfson
Last month he and his band the Sensitive Boys also took over ACL's new quarters in Austin's Moody Theater for "Recollections and Revelry," a four-hour career retrospective dating beyond his 1992 solo debut Gravity to his time in the True Believers, Rank & File and the Nuns. Joining him were many of his friends and admirers including Rosie Flores, Terry Allen, ex-True Believers bandmate Jon Dee Graham. (No doubt Springsteen, with whom Escovedo now shares management, sent his regards.)
In the last decade or so, Escovedo has recovered from a serious bout with Hepatitis C to reel off three excellent albums in a row all produced by his No. 1 collaborator these days, San Francisco-based alt-country stud Chuck Prophet: 2008's Real Animal, 2010's Street Songs of Love and last year's Big Station. Rocks Off was lucky to spend a few minutes with him on the phone one quiet morning earlier this week.
Rocks Off: How are you feeling these days?
Alejandro Escovedo: I'm feeling good. Hanging in there. Not bad. Getting older every day, but you know, I'm digging it. I'm having a good time.
AE: I don't drink. I stay away from drugs. I do smoke marijuana, but I don't do anything else. I try to eat well. I try to get a lot of sleep now, is one thing. The one thing I do that harms my health more than anything is just the amount of work that I try to do. It's funny, because as you know, when you get sick, there's a certain urgency that comes with it after you survive something like that, right?
So now you have this kind of need to... I mean, I keep wanting to do more. Make another record, write more songs, and play more gigs, and maybe there's an idea for some sort of theatrical thing that I could do, a book, and photography and whatnot. I think that's where I become my own worst enemy.
RO: How long is a typical workday for you?
AE: I try to do nothing, actually, but think about songs. But I'm always on the phone with someone, either doing interviews, or we're setting up something, or we're rehearsing. We rehearse a lot, my band. Prior to this, I did this "Recollections and Revelry" show at the Moody Theatre. We were working eight hours a day on that, pretty hard.
RO: I heard it went off well. Were you nervous getting ready for that?
AE: I was a bit nervous, because there was a point where I had to reschedule because of illness. Even though it gave us a little bit more time, it wasn't good, and we lost a lot of people as a result of that. Joe Ely was supposed to be part of it, but once it got changed he couldn't be part of it.
But it went off well, man. Charlie did a beautiful job. Charlie Sexton was musical director. All the guests were great. They all learned my songs and did my material, so it was pretty cool. I was very happy.
RO: Are there any plans to do anything with that, like a DVD or something?
AE: We have it all filmed and recorded and we're about to go in and mix it. Brian Standifer, my cellist, has a studio, and he's going to mix it. They're making a documentary of it, and we just got told yesterday that they want to do it again next year. So we'll do another one.