Lambchop's Wagner: There's 'a country fetish going on there'

Friday, February 3, 2012, Vol. 36, No. 5
By Tim Ghianni

Lambchop, an eclectic Nashville-based group with its roots in what now would be called Americana, has found continued success for more than 20 years in Europe, according to front man/band mainstay Kurt Wagner.

“We’ve been making music a long time,” says Wagner, whose musical vision is the one “constant” of the band with its revolving door lineup and music steeped in country music sensibilities.

Wagner says pursuing success in England and the continent was only natural for his outfit.

“Great Britain, Europe, tended to be where the greater interest lay, so that’s where we spend the great amount of our time,” he says.

After all, while they didn’t sell out up the Albert Hall, there weren’t many holes to fill in the seating chart.

“We filled it up pretty darn good. It was practically sold out, that was awhile ago, back in 2002. We sold out a lot of other venues.”

Lambchop has had success in the U.S., including appearances on late-night television.

But Wagner concedes there is a special relationship with the Brits.

“It’s kind of interesting. I think Britain in general was the first country to take a real interest in what we were doing. In the early 1990s, there was this interest in American sounds. We were one of the first bands that they took notice of, and were playing that kind of music.”

They were groundbreakers in a way in what Wagner says is “a country that embraced country music from the ‘50s on. They continue to sustain that.

“For some reason there is a country fetish going on there. To this day they are drawn more to the classic country sound. They are a little more skeptical of the sort of contemporary country that’s offered.

“That’s not to say Taylor Swift wouldn’t go over there, but they have more of a sense of the history of country music than you would expect.”

He’s not saying Lambchop is a traditional country outfit. But it is a close relative.

“I sort of joke it is more conceptual country. We started out taking seriously the notions and stuff that were being presented in country music. We were using similar engineers and also trying to take the interest in the production and the way Nashville records were made.”

So, while “we didn’t follow the laws of country songwriting,” the bands’ hearts truly were in that genre.

And the British continue to respond.