k.d. lang and Lyle Lovett
8 p.m. June 27
Kresge Auditorium, Interlochen
8 p.m. June 28
Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor
Jeans are like cars. It’s only time to clean them when their blue color doesn’t look so blue anymore, and they reek like the inside of a kid’s tennis shoe. Which gives k.d. lang all the more reason to wear them for two or three days.
“At least,” she quips jokingly.
On her forthcoming tour, the genre hopper won’t cram her entire closet into a mountain of suitcases; she’ll bring the minimum: two pairs of jeans, a couple of shirts, a set of shoes and, though she didn’t tell us, we’re going to assume underwear. “I’m so streamlined, it’s crazy,” lang tells Between The Lines. “I’m not a very material person.”
Though lang’s last studio album (albeit a mellow covers disc), “Hymns of the 49th Parallel,” dropped in 2004, she’ll team with longtime friend Lyle Lovett (“He’s really open and a beautiful guy”) for a slew of summer gigs. Lovett and lang, who’ve toured together before – “Oh, boy, in the late ’80s sometime,” she says – will stop in Interlochen and Ann Arbor on June 27 and June 28, respectively.
“It’s a good opportunity for me to go play in front of an audience that I haven’t played in front of for a long time,” lang says. “It’s a nice opportunity to go out and warm up the pipes. I’m also gonna do a couple of songs from my upcoming record, coming out in February that I wrote and produced.”
The recipe for lang’s upcoming release, her first set of original material since 2000’s “Invincible Summer,” will blend her sea of styles – country, folk, jazz and pop. Not shocking considering her eclectic choices over the years: an album with Tony Bennett, 2002’s “A Wonderful World,” and interpretations of iconic Canadian songwriters’ tunes on “49th Parallel.” 2006’s “Reintarnation” is her latest release – a retrospective of her early, country-laced ditties.
“It’s all the genres I’ve ever been involved in compressed into one record,” she says about the upcoming release.
There’s no map to lang’s path of musical spontaneity. Even her iPod – “As you can imagine, it’s pretty all over the place,” she spills – is like a blind person randomly downloaded songs from iTunes. She grooves to Amy Winehouse’s Motown-flavored disc, relaxes to Rufus Wainwright’s walloping newest and chills to The Shins’ sophomore set. Really, her guess is as good as ours.
And who can blame her for following some unnamed highway when she’s had a musical tenure that fallen stars daydream about. During the early ’90s, when she brokeout with the smashing hit “Constant Craving” and came out publicly, she quickly spiraled into a lesbian icon. Gay was just beginning to shake the mainstream, and fans expected lang to be their voice. She recalls it being a secret society – “a wink, wink, nudge, nudge kind of thing” – that she became a part of, and which swallowed her.
“It was all anyone ever talked about with me,” lang says, “and now it’s just kind of -,” she stops, gathering her thoughts but being mystified by the question. “It is what it is again.” She insists comparing lesbian life now to then doesn’t yield an easy answer. “In some ways it feels absolutely no different and in other ways it feels polar opposite.”
Sure, “Constant Craving” remains lang’s career staple, but in the last 25 years she’s thoroughly mined her creative cache, jumping through more genres than a frog leaps lily pads. And that’s why when she’s put on the spot to choose future musical mates, lang, a sucker for surprise and life’s random meanders, can’t name names.
“That really is up to my instincts or my muse or however you would say it – wherever my life takes me,” she notes. “I couldn’t predict where I would go ’cause I might have the opportunity to sing with Bjork or somebody and then, Wham! I’m off into that world.”
What she does know, though, is her sporadic acting career, after a 2006 stint in the box-office bomb “The Black Dahlia,” is at a halt. It’s not like she can’t score any roles right now; she just doesn’t care to. “I’m not really that fond of the acting world,” lang insists. “It just seems kind of opposite of being a musician.”
But what about actress-turned-(sort of) singer Jennifer Lopez and crooner-turned-(faltered) film star Mariah Carey?
She chuckles. “Well, maybe from the kind of musician that I am then.”