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Nick Lowe, with Los Straitjackets, performs in The Current studio

Nick Lowe performs in The Current studios.
Nick Lowe performs in The Current studios.MPR photo/Leah Garaas
  Play Now [3:24]

by Mary Lucia

December 03, 2014

Nick Lowe - Only a Fool Breaks His Own Heart (Live on 89.3 The Current)
by MPR
Nick Lowe performs in The Current studio (full session + interview)
by MPR
Nick Lowe - Sensitive Man (Live on 89.3 The Current)
by MPR
Nick Lowe - (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding (Live on 89.3 The Current)
by MPR

Nick Lowe is at a time in his life and in his career where he's pretty comfortable with what's come before. "I've got to the age where I don't cringe at much," he says.

In town for a show at First Avenue with Los Straitjackets, Lowe and Los Straitjackets visited The Current's studio for a session hosted by Mary Lucia.

Taking time to look at Lowe's long and storied career, Mary asked him about his iconic tune, "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding," famously covered by Elvis Costello. "I always think of that song as the first original idea that I had [as a songwriter]," Lowe says. "I thought it was a really good idea."

Asked if he was going through a particular period in his life in which he was contemplating themes of peace, love and understanding at the time he wrote the song, Lowe is blunt about what was in his mind. "I was trying to write a hit tune," he says.

Here are other highlight quotations from Mary's interview with Nick Lowe:

On his early songwriting efforts with Brinsley Schwarz:
"When you say 'writing songs', I didn't really know how to write any songs back then, but I was pretty good at ripping off other people's songs, changing a thing or two here and there and saying I'd written it — like everyone, everyone has to start somewhere. It's no great serious admission."

On the availability of songwriting commissions:
"The work for the jobbing songwriter is kind of drying up now."

On how he got started as a record producer:
"I didn't actually do anything that I can remember that was technical, and in those days, that's sort of what a record producer was: If you kind of said you were one, then you were one. That's all it took, really."

On how producing music changed and why he left it:
"In those days, it was all to do with getting people in the groove, getting people in the mood, whereas now when people make records, it's a completely different process; it's much more technical. Back then, it was more making sure people were feeling it. And almost the reason I stopped producing was because the 1980s, almost overnight, that kind of shtick was redundant, and I was never interested in it enough to take it on and figure out how to do it on a [computer] screen. There are great records made like that, don't get me wrong, but I was just never very interested in it."

On the association between "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding" and Elvis Costello:
"He's responsible for popularizing it, because most people think he wrote it, which is just fine by me! As long as it says I actually wrote it somewhere in the small print."

On how he evaluates the merit of his own songs today:
"If it feels like somebody else has actually written it — that I can't see any of myself in it, almost like I'm singing a cover song — that's when I think I've done a good one."

Naturally, today's session was conducted on a somber note; keyboardist Ian McLagan was originally scheduled to take part, but sadly passed away today at the age of 69. "I can't say I was a great friend of his, but I have met him and we definitely hit it off, and we have many mutual friends in common," Lowe says. "As we all know, was a fellow who loved life, and there's no question of us not carrying on with the tour."

The session concludes with a performance of "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding," dedicated to Ian McLagan.

Songs Performed

"Christmas at the Airport"
"Only a Fool Breaks His Own Heart" (Norman Bergen cover)
"Sensitive Man"
"(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding"

Hosted by Mary Lucia
Produced by Derrick Stevens
Engineered by Michael DeMark
Visuals by Leah Garaas and Nate Ryan
Web Feature by Luke Taylor

Nick Lowe - official site