Jim Lauderdale was born April 11, 1957, in Troutman, N.C. His father was a minister and his mother was a music teacher and choir director. He played drums in the school band and after graduation decided to become a solo performer in New York. He impressed record producer Pete Anderson while in the Los Angeles production of Pump Boys and Dinettes and was recorded for the compilation A Town South of Bakersfield, Volume 2. He then sang backing vocals for various artists including Carlene Carter and Dwight Yoakam.
Even in Nashville, a city teeming with singular talents, Jim Lauderdale is unique. He came to Music City, for example, not as a kid off the Greyhound with stars in his eyes, but as a singer and songwriter who had already begun a promising career. He is among Nashville’s “A” list of songwriters, with songs recorded by artists such as: Patty Loveless, George Jones, The Dixie Chicks, Solomon Burke, Mark Chesnutt, Dave Edmunds, John Mayall, Kathy Mattea, Lee Ann Womack, Gary Allan, Blake Shelton, Vince Gill, and George Strait. He also contributed several songs to the successful soundtrack of the George Strait film, “Pure Country.” Not content to just write hits for the stars, he’s toured with the likes of Lucinda Williams, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Rhonda Vincent and Elvis Costello, among others.
Jim’s musical influences include the legendary Dr. Ralph Stanley and George Jones. These influences and his unique sense of melody and lyric help forge a sound that is truly his own. He is a two time Grammy winner, winning his first in 2002 with Dr. Ralph Stanley for Lost in the Lonesome Pines (Dualtone). His next one came for his second “solo” bluegrass album, The Bluegrass Diaries (Yep Roc 2007) at the 50th Grammy Awards. His first CD with Dr. Stanley, I Feel Like Singing Today (Dualtone/Rebel 1999) received a Grammy nomination as did his first solo bluegrass CD titled Bluegrass (Yep Roc) from 2006. His current release, Patchwork River (his second collaboration with Grateful Dead lyricist, Robert Hunter) is currently on the Americana radio charts.
As a performer his credits include production, writing and collaborating on albums such as, Wait ‘Til Spring (SkyCrunch/Dualtone 2003) with Donna the Buffalo, and Headed for the Hills (Dualtone 2004) his first total project with Robert Hunter. The remainder of Jim’s 18 albums include: Planet of Love (Reprise 1991), Pretty Close to the Truth (Atlantic 1994), Every Second Counts (Atlantic 1995), Persimmons (Upstart 1998), Whisper (BNA 1998), Onward Through It All (RCA 1999), The Other Sessions (Dualtone 2001), The Hummingbirds (Dualtone 2002), Bluegrass (Yep Roc 2006), Country Super Hits, Volume 1 (Yep Roc 2006), Honey Songs (Yep Roc 2008), Could We Get Any Closer? (SkyCrunch 2009) and Patchwork River (Thirty Tigers 2010).
Pundits in the know took note early on of Jim’s appeal. Jim Macnie suggests correctly on allmusic.com that, “If every Nashville singing star had to cut at least one Jim Lauderdale song, country wouldn’t be the Chumpville that it is these days.” The Nashville Scene classifies him as “a hip country chameleon.” And Entertainment Weekly lauds his ability to make his songs “ache, bend, snort, and moan in a way no one else does.” All of this suggests that Jim isn’t an artist you can file easily into any one category, and while this is certainly true, one other aspect of Jim’s artistic identity rings even truer than his defiance of easy pigeon-holing – his sheer legendary output of world class material.
“It’s been a particularly great period for me,” says Lauderdale. “Thanks to the records - I’m performing more and more, which I love. And I love that I can play the Opry one weekend, a jam-band festival the next and then a bluegrass festival the following week. That’s really inspiring to me and I think there’s a real thread there. The roots are the same for all of them and that’s the music I’m interested in.”
The truth is that Jim has always had that ability of writing music that reflects his originality while at the same time maintaining a sense of total authenticity. Because his mission is to write songs that excel on their own, rather than shape them to the standards of any one genre, he has been able to come up with material that can be adapted to almost any kind of interpretation. “I recognize that my diversity can create a challenge for those that need to categorize me,” he admits, “where even though I might have Ralph Stanley singing with me, there’s also some singer/songwriter stuff and some country stuff — so which bin does it belong in at the record store? That’s just not for me to decide. That kind of question has nothing to do with making music.”