Dwight Yoakam

Dwight Yoakam

Emily Joyce

In an interview with Billboard, the singer contemplates Cow Punk, biscuits and home.

Dwight Yoakam’s latest album, Second Hand Heart, is touted as a return home to Warner Brothers/Reprise, the same label that issued such past triumphs as Yoakam's 1986 debut, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc., and Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room, released two years later. But, Yoakam insists that he’s felt home at the company's Burbank headquarters for a while.

“'3 Pears was with Warner Nashville, where I had been most of my career, technically,” the singer says of his 2012 full-length, studio album No. 12 for the Ohio native. “It always felt like, in part, I was based with the Burbank division because I was living in Los Angeles and did all my art work there.”

Indeed, Yoakam's affiliation with southern California goes back to the "Cow Punk" scene with which he was affiliated long before his cover of Johnny Horton’s “Honky Tonk Man” made him a radio favorite in 1986. And while Yoakam, 58, says there are some similarities between his new work and the sound of his formative years, he stresses that, "It’s not specific in terms of reference to the sonic or the material, but rather the intent."

Cow Punk came along, he explains, "because there were former punk musicians associated with it. Back in 1982 or 1983, they had started to explore and re-discover country music in a west coast version. The album that came out in 1985, A Town South of Bakersfield, was a tongue-in-cheek reference to all these bands in L.A. who were championing a neo-California country sound, and a lot of them were former punk rock musicians. There were groups like Lone Justice and Rank and File. They all created their own brand of country music. There was this whole energetic moment from 1982 through 1986 that was happening in Los Angeles.”

But Yoakam says that that movement wasn’t all Cali-based. “Nashville had a version of the same thing with Jason & The Scorchers, and Steve Earle was starting to happen at the same time," he adds. "There was a lot of it going on in different places."

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Second Hand Heart has that same "sense of immediacy," says the singer and guitar slinger, but if you're looking for hints into Yoakam’s personal life through songs like "Liar," you might be looking for a while. Offers Yoakam: “I have no idea how it connects -- literally or directly. I don’t write from the standpoint of it being a journal of my personal life, or anyone else’s, either. It’s usually a composite of observation, personal emotion, referenced emotions, and other people’s lives, combined with that of my own. I think that hopefully that makes it a little more universally accessible. There’s certainly moments of my personal life in it. There’s things based on experiences -- past, future, and present. But, it’s never a literal journal or chronicle of my life or any that I’ve observed.”

Yoakam recently wrapped a 38-date stint opening up for Eric Church on his The Outsiders tour. "We had a long strong run," says Yoakam. "I think he has distinguished himself from his contemporaries by the nature of his decision to be very deliberate with The Outsiders album as to how he was going to present himself; that makes him unique in this moment." [Church said "genres are dead" and that the concept of pigeonholing as such was "outdated" in interviews surrounding the album's 2014 release.]

Also known for his acting skills, Yoakam's resume includes a role in 90 Minutes In Heaven, a new film starring Kate Bosworth, and a possible return to the food business, after lending his name to Dwight Yoakam’s Bakersfield Biscuits. “Right now, it’s been inactive on the food side for a couple of years," he says. "It’s been licensed to a company that closed their business about four years ago. It was fun, and there’s talk about re-starting it in the next year. Who knows, there might be a biscuit in your future."

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