The Ardent Sessions with Lucero

Back in 2008 I invited Lucero to come to Ardent Studios to record an episode of The Ardent Sessions to commemorate their 10th anniversary.

The band, which consists of original members Roy Berry (drums), Ben Nichols (vocals, guitar), John C. Stubblefield (bass), and Brian Venable (guitar), and additional members Rick Steff (piano, organ, accordion) and Todd Beene (pedal steel), plus a horn section with Jim Spake (saxophone), and Nahshon Benford (trumpet), is currently on the the Warped Tour and plan to begin recording their next album in Memphis in the fall.

But since this is Lucero: The TVD Takeover Week – I thought it might be a treat to revisit this recording.

“The second show we ever played (13 years ago), James Manning saw us and told us we were going to be the next big thing – he said, ‘Next year you’re going to be huge!’” laughs Venable.

Ardent Sessions – Lucero

“After a while you just stop listening and taking it to heart” says Berry.

“What exactly are we supposed to be on the verge of?” adds Nichols.

“We’re on the verge of being here again next year…” says Stubblefield.

Just as the name of their album declared; they’re “Nobody’s Darlings” but they’ve certainly gained a fair amount of respect from fickle music consumers, with each new album outselling the last.

They’ve gone south to Mississippi and turned to legendary musician Jim Dickinson to lead the way at his Zebra Ranch studio, and sought out David Lowery of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker fame to produce along with engineer Alan Weatherman at Sound of Music, inRichmond,VA.

“I think we are capable of producing our own stuff” says Nichols. “But it helps to have someone when it comes down to a tie to make a call. It’s an unbiased vote, someone with an outside voice.”

“It’s kind of like a really good bus driver or a ship captain, if they’re good you don’t really notice them but they get you there” adds Stubblefield.

The band has gained a richer, fuller sound on the last few albums. Along with Nichols signature bourbon-soaked drawl on songs about blue-collar protagonists and the problems they face in life and love, the addition of Rick Steff on piano, organ and accordion has upped the band’s ante from simple bar band rock songs to arena ready anthems. It was Stubblefield who brought Steff by practice one night. It was a chance addition that ended up being intrinsic to the band’s musical evolution.

“Rick definitely affected the end product in a very big way” says Nichols. “He practiced with us as we were writing the songs and he enjoyed that because as a hired keyboard player, he’s usually just added on, but he was with us from the beginning and became very integral to the songs.”

“He showed up with charts for all the songs we gave him, he probably knows all the songs better than we do” adds Venable.

Brian Venable, Rick Steff and Ben Nichols

The new songs cover the standard Lucero territory: Desire for a better life, for accomplishment, for forgiveness, for love. It’s this subject matter that has garnered them more than a few comparisons to Bruce Springsteen, another musical working class hero. It’s a comparison that the band doesn’t seem to mind and will hopefully help them shake the alt-country label that has followed them for years.

“I’ve always been a big Springsteen fan, and it’s something that I have listened to the whole time Lucero has been in existence” admits Nichols. “It just took time to work that into what we were doing, and Rick allowed us to work that in more, and write that more epic sounding rock song.”

“I just always look forward to seeing how people respond to the new record” admits Nichols.

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