A Joyful Return For Yoakam

Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

Dwight Yoakam uses the words "joy" or "joyful" eight times in a 30-minute span when talking about the process of creating his new album, "Blame the Vain."

The recording, he says, took him to "a place of joyful, reckless abandon. I felt like I was 16 years old again stomping around in a garage or a basement with guys that were playing so freely that we were drawing complaints from neighbors."

The project -- Yoakam's 20th and the first without his longtime producer, music director and guitarist, Pete Anderson -- was a rediscovery of sorts of his love of music. Yoakam lets loose, not only in song but through some playfully bizarre spoken-word moments.

In one, he channels a British fop for the intro to "She'll Remember," and at the end of first single "Intentional Heartache" he rants through a relationship kiss-off involving some treasured items falling victim to a can of green spray paint.

Yoakam, a two-time Grammy Award winner, produced the album, played acoustic guitar throughout and wrote all the songs. He also directed the video for "Intentional Heartache."

Released June 14, the album is Yoakam's first on indie label New West Records. Like his last couple of albums, it also carries the imprint of Yoakam's own Via Records.

Yoakam says New West president Cameron Strang was the main draw for him in signing with that label. "He really understood what I wanted to do and allowed me the time to do it and believed that there was an album in my head that I needed to record."

But Yoakam says even he did not know what kind of album it would be until he started rehearsals. "[I] allowed the music to kind of take me on the journey, and [Strang] was willing to be an accomplice in that."

At first, Yoakam was not at all sure about producing the album. He approached several potential collaborators, including bandmate Keith Gattis, who convinced Yoakam to try it himself.

While pleased with the result, he might not repeat the process. "I don't know that I'll continue to self-produce," he says. "There is an enormous amount of tasks involved," duties previously handled by Anderson.

"Pete Anderson and I made a lot of records together ... and I'm pretty proud of every one of them," Yoakam says. "This album is unique unto itself, but in no way does it diminish anything I did with Pete."

Last August, Anderson sued Yoakam and his company Dwight Yoakam Tours, alleging that Yoakam breached an oral contract by failing to perform some 2002 tour dates. As a result, Anderson claimed he lost more than $45,000 in salary and expenses and the 25% of the net proceeds he was promised from the tour.

While their legal issues have yet to be resolved, Yoakam does not rule out working with Anderson again. Yoakam calls the lawsuit "unfortunate ... I don't agree, necessarily, with how it was portrayed on his end. But hopefully it resolves itself in a way that allows us to focus on the positives that we achieved together.

"The music should be clearly more important, ultimately, than the clumsiness of how two people arrive at doing other things independent of each other," he adds.

Yoakam most recently recorded two albums for Audium (now Koch Records), in 2003 and 2004, but spent most of his 20-year recording career on Warner Bros., where he amassed six platinum and three gold albums. He also notched 14 top 10 singles, the most recent in 1994.

Yoakam launched the album with what he jokingly calls his "Sunset Strip tour," two dates on Los Angeles' famed boulevard: June 11 at the House of Blues and June 14 in the parking lot of Tower Records. The tour will kick off in earnest June 30 and will take Yoakam to Europe and back to the States through late September.

Yoakam has also been busy with his acting career. He appears in three films coming out this year: "Bandidas," with Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayak; "The Three Brides of Melquiades Estrada," directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones; and "Wedding Crashers," starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn.

As for his wishes for this album, Yoakam says, "Hopefully the audience that bought the previous 20-some million records will like this and derive as much pleasure from listening to it as I received in creating it."

Excerpted from the June 25, 2005, issue of Billboard. The full original text is available to Billboard.com subscribers.

For information about ordering a copy of the issue, click here.