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Singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams talks finding ‘the joy’ later in life

One of the most critically acclaimed singer-songwriters in America today is Lucinda Williams. She's a hard-to-categorize Southerner who transcends any one style, and has won Grammy Awards for rock, country and folk music. A late bloomer, it's taken Williams four decades to achieve the recognition she has today. NewsHour’s Phil Hirschkorn reports.

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  • PHIL HIRSCHKORN:

    It's simply hard to label you.

  • LUCINDA WILLIAMS:

    The very thing that made it hard to get a record deal now has become, you know, my signature sound.

  • PHIL HIRSCHKORN:

    And your voice also reflects that range. It's changed a little over the years.

  • LUCINDA WILLIAMS:

    I like it better. I think it's kind of richer, and you know —

  • PHIL HIRSCHKORN:

    Deeper?

  • LUCINDA WILLIAMS:

    Deeper and richer, yeah.

    Over the years, I learned how to write songs for my voice more — not try to sing out of my range, or you know, try to reach notes I cannot reach.

  • PHIL HIRSCHKORN:

    Do the words typically come first or the music?

  • Lucinda:

    The words. Sometimes I'll get a little line with a little melody thing, you know, that'll pop into my head at the same time. My brain is always going. I might be sitting at a bar or anywhere I might be and hear something somebody says and I'll jot it down a lot of times on a cocktail napkin. And I save everything. I put it in a big folder.

  • PHIL HIRSCHKORN:

    Is the songwriting therapeutic for you?

  • LUCINDA WILLIAMS:

    Oh yeah. It's a life force, you know, that drives me. It's cathartic.

  • PHIL HIRSCHKORN:

    If I took all your songs and threw the lyrics into a Word Cloud, I'd probably get top hits for 'pain,' 'tears,' 'blue,' 'blues. Words like that.

  • LUCINDA WILLIAMS:

    I have plenty to write about. I'm carrying around a lot of baggage, you know, from my childhood. I look at it like here's a well, you know. All I have to do is dip my hand in and pull something.

    It took me years to learn how to kind of relax more on stage and engage the audience. It takes a toll, just the traveling part (on camera) but you know I'd rather be doing this than working at Wal-Mart.

    Bob Dylan was writing amazing songs when he was 18 or 19. So was Hank Williams, but I wasn't. So people ask me, 'Are you bitter or do you wish you made it sooner?' I always say, 'No, because I wasn't ready yet.'

    I remember my father said one time, "in the world of poets, nobody takes you seriously until you're in your 60s.

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