Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Jim Lauderdale has written some of the best songs you’ve ever heard, for artists including the Dixie Chicks, Elvis Costello and many others.

As far as his own music goes … well, Jim Lauderdale has written some of the best songs you’ve most likely never heard.

This dichotomy is a shame, because Lauderdale is both a great songwriter and a fine performer. See for yourself when he plays at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Saturday, April 23.

During a recent phone interview, Lauderdale explained his formula for a good song.

“I’d say that it’s a few different things,” Lauderdale said. “It’s something that moves another person in some way, whether that be emotionally or in a groove way that makes them want to dance or move—something that makes you enjoy when you hear it, and makes you want to hear it again or sing along.”

For inspiration, Lauderdale holds the Grateful Dead’s songwriter, Robert Hunter, in high regard.

“One of my favorites, who I’ve been very fortunate to write with, is Robert Hunter,” Lauderdale said. “We wrote at first through fax machines, and I was working on a record with Dr. Ralph Stanley, who is a bluegrass guy. Robert came to Nashville for a while, and we wrote three songs in each other’s presence. A few years went by, and I went to visit him where he lives in California, and we sat down and wrote again. After that, we wrote a bluegrass record. We had written in all those kinds of ways. I’m such a huge fan of his that I still feel in awe in his presence. I just try to act as normal as possible around him.”

Another one of his frequent collaborators is country and Americana singer-songwriter Buddy Miller.

“Buddy and I have written several songs together and did an album together, finally, and we have a radio show together, too,” Lauderdale said. “It’s different than working with Robert, because I knew Buddy since I moved to New York after I got out of college and played in some country bands in New York City. Buddy had a great band there; then he moved away and quit music. Then he contacted me when I was living in Los Angeles a few years later and said he was going to move to Los Angeles and asked if I knew any gigs for a guitar player. I hired him for the gigs I had, and we just became better and better friends. We know each other so well that we’re like brothers. With Robert Hunter, he’s someone Buddy and I both idolize. It’s kind of that thing where it’s hard to believe you’re actually sitting there with him. It’s a much more familial thing with me and Buddy.”

While Lauderdale has had epic success as a songwriter for other people, he’s struggled with record labels when it comes to his own music, despite various accolades.

“In some ways, I’m like my friend the late Chris Gaffney. I met him in Los Angeles, and he was an amazing singer and songwriter,” Lauderdale said. “He said, ‘Well, I don’t listen to anything past 1975 when it comes to country.’ I know he was in some ways kidding, but my taste tends to be toward the earthier, rawer kind of honky-tonk and emotional stuff. I’m into the heavy pedal steel and a Telecaster, and that kind of thing. All music styles evolve, and I’ve kind of likened it to rock ’n’ roll going through an evolution, and it’s not just Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee, Elvis and the Beatles: It’s changed, and it’s like that in many ways. I guess in some ways, I would term it as “corporate music.” In some ways, it’s formulaic and there are certain things that sell, and they kind of repeat that, but that’s the music business in general. Occasionally, something new and fresh will break through in music, and the industry will try to follow those trends. I guess I try to be optimistic, and I think there’s so much great undiscovered talent out there that will eventually break in, and I continue hoping. All we can do as writers and musicians is keep doing what we do and keep striving to make better and better music—even if it’s just a part-time thing for people.”

In 2015, Lauderdale released a double-album titled Soul Searching, with one part focused on Nashville, and the other on Memphis. He explained how it was different than anything he’d done in the past.

“It’s the first time I’ve actually done a physical double release. The one I did before that, I considered it a double album, because it was 20 songs, and I just wanted to not waste the plastic and put it on one disc,” he said. “But there are 13 songs with this one on each disc, and with 26 songs total, that was too many to put on one disc. It’s the first time I’ve put 13 songs on a record in the style of the ’60s and early ’70s soul music with a great horn section and writing in that feel. I had a lot of influences as a kid with rock ’n’ roll, country, bluegrass and blues, and that’s the first time I’ve really focused that much on soul music. The Nashville disc is pretty eclectic. The songs I actually had finished weren’t going in that direction, and I thought, ‘I’m going to spend these next couple of months writing and recording whatever comes out.’”

Lauderdale tries to make it to Pappy’s every April.

“I moved to Los Angeles in 1985 and started going to the desert a few months later. I just really fell in love with Pappy and Harriet’s,” he said. “For several years, I’ve been trying to do an annual gig out there, and my birthday is April 11. I used to play there on my birthday or kind of near, but this was the kind of date that worked the best this time.”

He added that through the years, he’s seen quite a change at Pappy’s.

“When I first went there, it was a country band that was semi-local or coming up in Los Angeles, and they’d play from Thursday through Sunday,” he said. “Now it’s just a wide national-touring-acts venue. It’s really grown, and it’s a magical place for me to play.”

Jim Lauderdale will perform at 9 p.m., Saturday, April 23, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $15. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit

Published in Previews

Coachella and Stagecoach arrive this month, which means the season is at its busiest—and will soon be coming to an end.

Enjoy the craziness, folks. It means all sorts of great things are taking place.

April is the McCallum Theatre’s last full month of regular activity before the summer lull. At 8 p.m., Monday, April 4, get ready for the original sexy-sax man, Kenny G. That’s right: Everyone’s favorite soft-rock jazz saxophonist will be stopping by again to ROCK THE COACHELLA VALLEY! All kidding aside, Kenny G is actually pretty damn good, and his soft-rock jazz sound was a sign of the times a couple of decades ago. While he might not bop or swing, he does what he does very well. Tickets are $37 to $80. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 9, singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka will be performing to celebrate the Desert Symphony’s 27th anniversary. Sedaka is an awesome showman and still has a great voice at the age of 77. Tickets are $77 to $202. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787;

Fantasy Springs has some fantastic events in April. At 8 p.m., Friday, April 1, enjoy a fantastic night of Latin rock with Los Lonely Boys and Los Lobos. Los Lobos is legendary in the Latin rock scene and was a big hit in the Los Angeles music scene in the early ’80s. Los Lonely Boys came out of Texas in the late ’90s and found an audience when “Heaven” became a No. 1 hit on the radio in 2004. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 2, Il Volo will be performing. This Italian trio sings what it calls “popera” and has become a hit with both classical-music lovers and those who fall into the “opera music for people who hate opera music” crowd. Tickets are $59 to $109. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 9, Gladys Knight will be performing (sans the Pips). Knight started her R&B singing career at the age of 16 when she signed to Motown, and she’s been a big name ever since. She’s also ventured into gospel and religious music affiliated with the Mormon faith, into which she was baptized in 1997. Tickets are $39 to $79. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000;

Spotlight 29 will be heating up with a couple of interesting shows. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 16, it’s going to be a special night for ladies thanks to Hunks. The Las Vegas-style production is similar to that of Thunder From Down Under and the Chippendales; these guys will have the ladies sweating and screaming. Tickets are $20. If dancing near-naked men aren’t your thing, relax: At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 23, R&B superstar Keith Sweat will be performing. With hits that include “Something Just Ain’t Right,” I Want Her” and “Make You Sweat,” this will be a popular show. Tickets are $25 to $45. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566;

Morongo Casino Resort and Spa has some fun events on the slate. First, at 9 p.m., Friday, April 1, get ready to groove at the love shack, because The B-52s are returning to the area. One of the biggest names of the ’80s came out of the punk-rock scene in New York. The B-52s have recorded some truly timeless music that continues to gain them younger audiences and—makes the old audiences love them even more. Tickets are $65 to $75. At 11 p.m., Friday, April 8, the Village People will be performing. That’s right: It’s the Village People, known for hits such as “Macho Man” and “YMCA.” Tickets are $10. At 9 p.m., Friday, April 15, Shinedown (upper right) will take the stage. The Jacksonville, Fla., band has sold 6 million albums since starting in 2001 and is currently touring to promote album No. 5, Threat to Survival. The members of Shinedown have stated that they are simply a rock ’n’ roll band and don’t want to be labeled as “post-grunge” or “alternative.” Tickets are $40 to $50. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499;

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is again enjoying a kickass Coachella season. The bad news: Some of the Coachella-related shows are sold out. The good news: There are still plenty of shows with tickets available. At 12:30 p.m., Saturday, April 9, desert-rock godfather Brant Bjork will be putting on Desert Generator, a day of heavy psychedelic rock ’n’ roll. Also on the bill: Red Fang, Acid King, Golden Void and Ecstatic Vision. This is definitely going to be a great show—and a throwback to the days of generator parties, albeit in a legit setting. Tickets are $48. At 9 p.m., Saturday, April 23, country-bluegrass singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale will take the stage. Jim has written songs that have been recorded by artists such as the Dixie Chicks, Elvis Costello, Blake Shelton and many others. It’ll be a nice event to get you in the mood for Stagecoach! Tickets are $15. You’ll be happy to know that Har Mar Superstar (below) will be performing at 9 p.m., Saturday, April 30. OK, here’s the deal: You might not have heard of him … or perhaps you’ve heard of him for the wrong reasons. He’s basically a guy who looks like Ron Jeremy and performs R&B-style music in a Speedo. His shows are typically funny and impressive—but he dances, too, so prepare yourself for that. Tickets are $15. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956;

The Palm Desert Amphitheater is hosting an intriguing event: At 7 p.m., Saturday, April 9, a rock opera titled Untamed will be performed. Untamed is written by Palm Desert resident Kara Aubrey and is about a millennial man in search of significance in these troubled times. Good news: Admission is free! Palm Desert Amphitheater at Civic Center Park, 43900 San Pablo Ave., Palm Desert;

Published in Previews