Some actors try their hands at music (Russell Crowe, Keanu Reeves) and some musicians try their hands at acting (Mick Jagger, James Taylor), but few have found success in both fields like Dwight Yoakam. The twangy-singing Californian – by way of Kentucky, Ohio and Nashville – can count acting credits in such films as Sling Blade, Wedding Crashers, Panic Room, Hollywood Homicide and Red Rock West in addition to his Grammy-winning music career.
On Saturday, October 12, Yoakam will headline the inaugural Cask & Drum, a day-long music, beer and wine festival to be held in a green space at 1st Avenue South and 28th Street. Other acts on the event’s 11-artist bill include Shovels & Rope, Railroad Earth, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Lord Huron.
The recent past has been active for Yoakam, with the 2012 studio release 3 Pears and this year’s compilation 21st Century Hits: Best Of 2000-2012. The 3 Pears title refers to a John Lennon video clip that left a lasting impression on Yoakam.
“Around the Revolver era, [Lennon] was goofing with a cinematographer and he was making faces,” Yoakam recalls. “He had three pairs of glasses – kind of ‘60s mod movie-star sunglasses – on his eyes, his forehead and his nose. He was goofing around and I remember looking up and lamenting the loss of John Lennon so young and thinking about what music he had yet to make.”
Consumed by that image of Lennon, Yoakam used it as a springboard for his album’s title track.
“I said out loud to my girlfriend, ‘Three pairs of glasses,’ and I got up and walked across the kitchen and started humming the idea for the melody,” Yoakam says. “There was such a youthful innocence always to Lennon’s humor. He had such a wry sense of humor. That moment kind of crystallized that thought for me and I thought about him and grabbed my guitar. On the surface it’s a simple song, but it has a fullness in terms of meaning for me when I sing it and play it live.”
Yoakam also found inspiration for another 3 Pears track from an unlikely source.
“The other song that appeared like that was ‘Waterfall,” he says. “I had an old guitar that I hadn’t played in forever and pulled it out of the closet, and I thought the sound of this guitar would make me write something kooky. The song kind of wandered out of me that day.”
I jokingly mention to Yoakam that, having followed his career, it’s odd that he has been around long enough to be the subject of yet another “greatest hits” package. 21st Century Hits was released on September 30.
“New West [Records] decided to put that out,” he says. “I didn’t realize they were actually going to do it until they called this summer. I thought it was interesting collection from the 2000s.”
I ask Yoakam how much input he was allowed in the album’s creation.
“That was really their project,” he explains. “On compilation albums, they just have to ask my approval for the selections and I actually made a couple of changes in sequence and I think we did actually swap one track. I’m afforded the right to say, ‘Yes’ or ‘No.”
“Are any acting projects currently underway?” I ask.
“As an actor, you’re at the mercy of opportunity and opportunity knocks when it does,” Yoakam says. “Acting is not within the control of the actor. There a handful of actors that can decide they want to do something and just do it, but the rest of us are at the mercy of opportunity. There’s nothing that’s scheduled to come out right now, but sometimes there’s a knock and you open up the door.”