Interview: Cyndi Lauper’s Country Album Was Years in the Making
Cyndi Lauper is perhaps best known for her string of '80s hits such as "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" and "Time After Time," but she's been waiting for decades to try her hand at a country album. The idea for her upcoming project, Detour, began percolating 25 years ago, but Lauper wanted to make sure the time was right.
"In 1990, I sang with k.d. lang, and she said, ‘There’s a little country in you,’" Lauper recently told The Boot and other reporters. "I finally, after all these years, got to sing, and [Detour]'s a real singer’s album. I realized when I was singing it that I kind of heard some of these songs growing up on my Aunt Gracie’s transistor radio -- a little black and silver radio over the refrigerator, with the antenna out. It was always Patsy Cline or Loretta Lynn."
Lauper was born and raised in New York City, but she's had an affinity for traditional country music since she was just a child.
"When I was growing up, Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn, although they’re country stars, as a kid, they were just stars," Lauper explains. "We used to listen to everything all together, not in little compartments. So, for me, Patsy Cline was glamorous, almost like a movie star, and Loretta Lynn was glamorous."
Hearkening back to how music was recorded in decades past, Lauper recorded almost all of Detour live; she was more interested in the tone than in getting a polished finished product.
"The reason we do it live is for life, is for the point of discovery," Lauper tells The Boot. "You want the point of discovery when everyone kind of connects together, and then everyone listens to each other, including you. You’re all listening, and you arrive at that place together, and that’s music with connection."
Detour includes collaborations with Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill, Alison Krauss and Jewel, all of whom were as eager for the experience as Lauper.
"Anything that couldn’t accomplish that connection was not the kind of music that would honor the songs we were doing," Lauper continues. "The people that actually sang those songs first stood there live, and their point of discovery was everyone together."
Still, the seasoned singer admits that recording Detour in this way was a challenging undertaking.
"I wanted so much to work with these songs and these musicians. But what was hard about it was learning how to connect with them," Lauper explains. "Music without connection becomes cookie-cutter, and I don’t have that kind of talent that I can step in and sing over anybody and make it sound fantastic; I can’t. My whole thing is to connect: I have to connect to the musicians, they have to connect to me, so that we have heart."
Detour's title track, originally recorded by Jimmy Walker in 1945, was released by Tex Williams in 1946 and Patti Page in 1951. For Lauper, the tune was the perfect way to explain the record to her loyal fans.
""Detour" came first, the song. And then I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, what are you going to call the album? How are they going to know what it is? They’re not going to know it’s country,'" Lauper recalls. "I thought, ‘It’s another detour, Cyn. It’s yet another detour.' Then I started getting all the crazy images in my head, with the sign and the road."
The record's title is a good way to explain this stage of Lauper's life and career, she admits.
"In life, there are many detours, but sometimes, they’re not bad to take," she notes. "This was a good one."
Detour is set for release on May 6; the album is available for pre-order on Amazon and iTunes. On May 9, Lauper will kick off a tour in support of the record at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium; a list of all of her upcoming concerts is available on her website.
Artists Who Have Unexpectedly Released Country Projects