Interview: Luke Dick’s ‘Red Dog’ Soundtrack Is a True Labor of Love
Luke Dick's 2019 documentary Red Dog, about the employees and patrons of the Oklahoma City strip club of the same name, is a labor of love. So, too, is its newly released soundtrack.
"This project has been kind of a decade in the making, and I didn't know what it was at first," Dick tells The Boot during a recent phone call. "The whole time I was making the project, it felt compelling to me ... The whole time, I was interested in the soundtrack aspect of the film, too."
As a child in the 1980s, the adjunct philosophy professor-turned-country songwriter, new wave bandleader and filmmaker grew up in the Red Dog scene: His mother, Kim, was a dancer at the famous bar and raised him, as a single mom, with help from her co-workers, after she and Dick's father -- Charles, a Red Dog regular -- split up after his birth.
Red Dog itself is not Dick's story; rather, its tale is told through interviews with Dick's mother and others. As such, its soundtrack also focuses on those same characters: "Dance Like Me" grew out of something his mom said in an interview, for example, while "Tiny Dreams" is for Red Dog's bouncer, and "Oklahomie" paints a picture of Oklahoma culture.
"These are freestanding songs," Dick explains, not "direct companions." They speak to the stories, experiences and dreams of Red Dog's subjects, but are also universal enough to appeal to listeners who haven't seen the film (and, really, isn't that sort of broad appeal every songwriters goal?).
And yet, Dick couldn't help but put a little bit of himself into the soundtrack. In addition to using the sounds of his childhood -- outlaw country, Gordon Lightfoot-esque singer-songwriters, Doobie Brothers-era soft rock and the psychedelia of Tom Petty and Beck -- to create the film's musical vibe, he worked with a number of influential songwriter and artist friends "who have been such a support to me and have been part of my roots and [my journey of] coming into being a songwriter and an artist."
"They've been such seminal figures in my life ... that it seemed natural to bring on collaborators that I'm working around all the time, especially when they loved the project," Dick notes. It didn't feel like a huge ask, either."
That's how Dick, who has penned, among other hits, Miranda Lambert's "Bluebird" and Dierks Bentley's "Burning Man," enlisted Bentley for the grooving "Blazer" and Lambert for "Polyester," a song that tells Dick's life story, but also, listeners will notice, Lambert's.
"I turned the song in knowing I loved the song so much, but not knowing if my publisher would think it was too cheeky," Dick recalls. As it turns out, he was worried for nothing: "He's like, 'This is one of the greatest things you've turned in.'"
Dick remembers briefly trying to convince Lambert to cut "Polyester" on her own; his producer, meanwhile, floated the idea of Florida Georgia Line cutting it. It was Carter Little, Red Dog's music supervisor, who helped Dick see the song as part of the film and its soundtrack.
"He said, 'Of course, you'll put "Polyester" as the credit track,' and I'm like, 'Really?'" Dick recounts. "He's like, 'Yes, dude, it's your story. It makes complete sense.'
"I was skeptical for a sec, but ... that's so right ...," he adds. "It hit so well to me, and that chord progression became a bit of a motif [throughout the film]."
Dick's other Red Dog soundtrack co-conspirators include fellow songwriters Chris DuBois, Jessie Jo Dillon, Jeff Hyde and Natalie Hemby, the latter of whom sings with Dick on "Mothers and Sons," a waltz the pair co-wrote on a 12-string electric guitar, newly purchased from East Nashville's Fanny's House of Music, on the day Tom Petty died in 2017. "Oklahomie" is credited to Dick's band, Hey Steve, and Black Keys member and producer Patrick Carney.
"He just loves working in a musical sandbox -- as I do -- where there's no rules, you're just trying to come up with something compelling," Dick says of Carney, with whom he also co-wrote the track.
Dick's Red Dog soundtrack, which was released on Friday (Dec. 4), is available for download, streaming and purchase now. Learn more about the documentary at LukeDick.org.
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