Langhorne Slim on songwriting, collaborating and getting grounded

HEART OF THE MATTER: The Rolling Stone called the last Langhorne Slim album, The Way We Move, "damn near perfect." But his fans already knew that. Of being a singer-songwriter he says, "I'm so fortunate to have music in my life to keep me grounded." Photo by John A. Zara

Folk-rock troubadour Langhorne Slim is known for spending nine months of the year on the road with his band, The Law. He’s a true road warrior who’s built a dedicated fan base through constant touring, lots of festival dates, infectious recordings, great art and live shows that pair roadhouse grit with tent revival soul — and he’ll return to The Grey Eagle on Thursday, April 30. But last year, he says, the band took a lot more time off, which, ironically, seemed to positively affect its popularity. Slim is going with it, though. He purchased a house in Nashville, his most recent move after stints in New York and Portland.

“To buy a home in Nashville is considered a great investment. I understand that,” he says. “But I’m not flipping that place, I’m moving the hell in.” In fact, when his new neighbors asked if he’d repaint right away (the house is pink), Slim said no. “It feels like more of a spiritual center than a place where I keep my sh*t,” he says. “I awoke to a dream and was able to live in it.”

And, he adds, “I think my soul is pink.” (He’s since started recording musical performances for the Pink House Sessions video series.)

Make of that what you will; homeownership has certainly not slowed Slim’s creative process. Between tour stints (including a number of solo shows), he’s been working on a new album. “I write a lot in pieces. It’s rare that I get a full song,” he says. “They’re little pieces that I eventually feel are devouring me. It’s not a fun feeling — the only cure is to put together the pieces.” Those fragments led to nearly completed songs; to polish them, Slim turned to trusted friend and collaborator, Kenny Siegal.

And it’s because of Siegal and the relationship he and Slim share (“We bicker like an old Jewish couple … [but] he’s a true soul brother”) that the musician found himself leaving his home in Nashville — arguably the current music epicenter of the universe — to record at Siegal’s Old Soul Studios in Catskill, N.Y.

But while Slim’s connection to Catskill comes from a particular, deep friendship (and a certain hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant), he insists that this will be very much a band album. “Our band has always just learned the songs on the road in front of an audience,” he says. The musicians — drummer Malachi DeLorenzo, David Moore on banjo and keyboard, and bassist Jeff Ratner — have never lived in the same town. And although Slim does most of the writing on his own, “as soon as [the guys] get their hands on it, their contributions are immense,” he says. “The songs would be way different if it wasn’t those three guys playing. They help a lot with arrangements, and their own voices on their instruments are extraordinary.”

While the songwriter says, “I’ve never been a man who knows how to write a damn bridge,” it’s his voice — raspy, tortured at times and as broken in as vintage denim — that elevates his songs to personal soundtrack status. From outsider anthems like “The Way We Move” (featured in the movie trailer for Admission) to aching slow dances like “Coffee Cups,” Slim conveys both poetry and authentic humanness. That he refers to his fans as “beautiful freaks” says as much about his personal aesthetic as that of his listeners.

For those beautiful freaks who were in attendance at the 2012 show taping at The Grey Eagle, that live album is still on hold. “It kind of got lost in the shuffle,” says Slim, though it’s not forgotten: “It would be really cool to have ‘Live from The Grey Eagle,’ one of our favorite venues in one of our favorite towns, at some point.”

WHO: Langhorne Slim & The Law with The Dewars
WHERE: The Grey Eagle, thegreyeagle.com
WHEN: Thursday, April 30, 9 p.m. $15 advance/$18 day of show

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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