Loudon Wainwright III considers his upcoming compilation Years in the Making an “audiobiography.” And rest assured the two-disc, 42-track set, coming out Sept. 14, features plenty of his story that you’ve never heard before — including the previously unreleased “Floods of Tears,” whose video is premiering exclusively below.
Put together by Wainwright and regular collaborator Dick Connette, Years in the Making pulls together all sorts of Wainwright recorded ephemera from his vaults, including deep album tracks, outtakes, home demos, live recordings, radio appearances and more. There are recordings of his children singing “Happy Birthday” to him, along with his “The Animal Song,” alongside collaborations with Suzzy Roche, Bill Frisell, Van Dyke Parks and Wainwright’s first wife, the late Kate McGarrigle, dueting on a 1974 home recording of Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Going Nowhere.”
“We started to think about this just before I turned 70,” Wainwright, 71, tells Billboard. “That’s a ripe old age, three score and 10, so I was looking back maybe a little bit. We decided it was a good time for a retrospective record, but rather than doing a kind of greatest hits or misses or boxed set thing, it was decided we would just go back into the archives, stuff that’s been lying around my house for 40 years and go through them and put them together into an album.
“It’s a selective reflection of some of the work I’ve been doing the past 45 years.”
Wainwright says there were a few lump-in-the-throat moments during the spelunking, particularly the recordings by his children. “Y’know, it’s powerful,” he says. “”You go back and listen to a song that I made on a reel-to-reel tape recorder or something that Steve Goodman did in my apartment in 1974 that we put on a cassette machine. It was a blast from my past, really.”
“Floods of Tears,” meanwhile, is a song Wainwright recorded during 1985 but never released. He considers it a sequel of sorts to his song “Motel Blues” from 20 years prior, another song “about the life on the road and the loneliness of the road and the mistakes that one makes out on the road because of the loneliness. It was written 20 years after ‘Motel Blues,’ so I guess it’s saying I’d been an idiot for two decades.” The “Floods of Tears” DIY-styled lyric video was created by Nancy Howell and Mark Lerner, members of the band Rosine, in Woodstock, N.Y., and Wainwright pronounces their efforts “beautiful.”
Wainwright also wrote some new songs during the Years in the Making process that he and Connette considered making part of the package but ultimately decided against including them. “We labeled [them] The Next Album,” Wainwright says. “God knows when that will come out. I continue to write. It’s kinda like having sex — it doesn’t happen as much as it used to, but man does it feel good when it happens.”
Wainwright’s other major current project is a film version of Surviving Twin, his one-man show based on his father’s Life magazine columns and letters to he wrote to his mother. Wainwright has been playing the show for several years and good pal Christopher Guest, with Judd Apatow co-producing, filmed a pair of the concerts that will be released via Netflix, though no date has been determined. “Chris is just finishing the edit,” Wainwright says. “I have no idea when it will come out, but it was great to do it and I’m excited for other people in the world to see it and hear it, and to enjoy my father’s incredible work.”