Roots Report: An Interview with Jimmy Webb

Okee dokee folks…One of the biggest legends in the songwriting world is coming to the Greenwich Odeum on October 25. Most “civilians” may not know the name Jimmy Webb, but we songwriters sure do! Webb is responsible for some for some of the greatest and memorable songs of ALL TIME including “Up, Up and Away,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston,” “The Worst That Could Happen,” “All I Know” and “MacArthur Park.” A Jimmy Webb show is extremely entertaining. He performs many of his classic hits (on piano & vocals) and tells great stories behind them as well of his experiences with other artists. Glen Campbell was one of his good friends of his and talks a lot about this and collaborations with others such as Linda Rondstat, Art Garfunkel, and Carly Simon. I had a VERY long conversation with Jimmy Webb a few years back and spoke with him again recently.

Jimmy Webb: Hello, John
John Fuzek: Hi, Jimmy, how are you?
JW: Oh, I’m pretty good, I just had five gigs in a row and I’m a little bit hoarse.
JF: I know the feeling all too well, I can empathize
JW: I’m ok, I’m fit, I’m certified for an interview, though I may cough every once in a while
JF: (laughs) Where did you just play?
JW: I played, umm, two gigs in San Diego, then I went up to Seattle and I played two gigs up there, then I had one in Portland, then I flew back, I got back late last night
JF: you’re out on Long Island, right?
JW: Laura (Savini) and I live on the North Shore of Long Island in a place that time forgot called Bayville. We’re very, very happy here and she and I have been married now for about 15 years. We were married over in the Oyster Bay Presbyterian Church so this really is our home, and we have a pet cat named Chai, with one eye
JF: And my cat is walking all over me as we speak!
JW: God bless you, cats are the best! He’s really changed our lives!
JF: I talked to you a couple of years ago for a good long time, about 90 minutes, and I have seen your show, completely enjoyed listening to your stories and songs. I know that a lot of the things that people ask you in interviews are things that you talk about on stage so I will avoid those questions, which is kind of hard, but I don’t want to give away what you talk about as part of your show, that spoils the fun
JW: I appreciate you thinking about me in a protective way but if you need to ask me something, just ask!
JF: Ok, well, nowadays how much time to you actually dedicate to writing?
JW: Quite a bit, but I had a real shocker while I was touring last year, I lost my notebook
JF: Ut oh!
JW: I had almost a whole album full of lyrics in there
JF: Oh, geez
JW: What I have been doing is recreating the lyrics and as a write I am sure that you can imagine what kind of a hair pulling thing that is
JF: So, the way I write is that I always have paper and pen handy to write, always writing down notes and thoughts, is that what you do as well?
JW: I always have a notebook with me, it’s one of my rules, I have a notebook and I have never lost one before and i was on the road and low and behold it came up missing. I think I left it on an airplane
JF: That’s horrible
JW: I am doing a good job of recreating it and it will be an album, it will be out next year and I am thinking of calling it The Notebook Album (laughs). So, yes, that was a long winded answer to a very succinct question. Yeah, I write all the time.
JF: Have you ever hear of the comedian Marc Maron by chance?
JW: No
JF: He carries Post-It notes with him while he drives and he is always writing notes on the Post Its. He did a bit about this in one of his comedy routines.
JW: I can understand that. You always get your best ideas at the most awkward moments, so that makes sense, that’s a good technique.
JF: So, my friend Betty Mulligan wanted me to ask you, “Do you live your life like you write your songs?”
JW: Well, umm, that depends, I really feel like I have lived two lives, and the first one was a great deal more risque and dangerous than the one I live now, I would really divide it into the evil, un-sober Jimmy and the nice, sober Jimmy.
JF: I am sure you prefer the nice Jimmy
JW: I like the nice, sober Jimmy. I really like it a lot better
JF: Another friend, Joanne Lurgio, wanted me to ask “Did your father really give you $40 to get started on your songwriting career?”
JW: Absolutely, that is the truth! I don’t really make up stories for the stage, there may be a bit of an embellishment, I’ll cop to that, but mostly it’s the truth, word for word, this is what happened, I’ve been fortunate in that my life is interesting enough that it’s worth telling, so that’s why a lot of my show is, I don’t want to say a lot because I don’t want to scare people, PART of my show is anecdotal, and i get into the history of some of the songs, the way the were written and why they were written
JF: That’s what’s great about your show! Anyway, I am just going to ask you one more question, I know you’re very tired and you need to rest your voice. I have seen you perform and unfortunately I will miss your show this time around because I will be out of town playing a show, but I would like you to tell folks what they can expect and encourage folks to come out to see you perform
JW: It’s not a morbid or a downer of a show, I like to think that it’s uplifting, it’s for spiritual people, people who are aware of the spiritual, not the Evangelical world, but the spiritual world, it’s funny, people laugh all the way through it, I don’t know when I began to realize that I was doing a comedy show! You come, you laugh, you can bring your children because it’s not off color, there aren’t any nasty words, it’s for everybody, I play lots of hit songs but sometimes i wander off into the eclectic, songs that haven’t been heard that should have been heard, and I talk a little bit about people who were well known, Glen Campbell, Nina Simone, Richard Harris, stories that I know that no one else knows, it’s fun, we really have fun, my fans are the best people in the world, that’s all that I can say
JF: I am VERY disappointed that I will miss the show but I got to to what i got to do, anyway, I will let you go rest and I really do appreciate you taking the time to talk today 
JW: God bless you, thank you so much, John 

If you are a fan of any of the songs that Webb has written, want to hear about his process and the inspirations behind the songs, or just like to hear stories about famous musicians that you will not hear elsewhere then you owe it to yourself to attend this performance. Besides all that, you will hear these songs performed by the man who wrote them — a treat in itself.  Jimmy Webb will appear at the Greenwich Odeum on October 25. For more about the show, “drive the main road” to greenwichodeum.com

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. Www.JohnFuzek.com

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