Nick Lowe proves it doesn't take the latest Apple gadget to prove rock-star status. Lowe, one of England's greatest singer-songwriters, doesn't even have a computer, and the only cellular phone he has is used solely to stay in touch with his wife during his tours.
For the uninitiated, the 63-year-old Lowe has been writing music on his own terms for more than four decades. He will appear in Sacramento on Thursday night at the Sierra 2 Center. Los Angeles singer Eleni Mandell is to open the show.
Although Lowe's best-known pop hits, the immensely catchy "Cruel to Be Kind" and "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding" were written while he played in one of his earliest bands, Brinsley Schwarz, his solo catalog has also shown depth in other styles including country, soul, and rock.
Lowe, speaking via telephone recently from St. Louis, seemed in rather great spirits. He's been touring in support of his latest release on Yep Roc records, "The Old Magic," a collection of well-chosen originals and a few handpicked covers.
You're drawing audiences that weren't even born when you started writing and recording. What's that like?
We've had some really great audiences. We've even sold a bunch of T-shirts (laughing incessantly). There's a lot of young people coming to the shows these days. People from their late 20s to the early 30s.
There's also more women. It makes for a swingin' evening.
Where did this crowd come from?
It really started a year or so ago. I've had two tours recently with Wilco, which I think helped a lot. They were playing some pretty big places.
It was just a matter of introducing myself to their people to get this new audience.
You've played many U.S. cities over the years. Any ones you have an affinity for?
"The places that are good for me still are the ones that I went to with Rockpile (Lowe's former band with Welsh singer-guitarist Dave Edmunds, from the late '70s and early '80s) like San Francisco and Boston. Also, Atlanta has been good as of late. Even the Midwest has been opening its arms and running toward me. I suppose Kansas City, Indianapolis, that I thought were heavy-metal, have also been supportive.
You've seen all sides of the musical spectrum from major labels to indie labels. What would you say are the pros and cons of being on an indie label such as Yep Roc?
Upstart, my original label via Rounder Records, went belly-up. They just signed the people they liked too much. Then Glenn Dicker (from Upstart) tried again at Yep Roc. As humiliating as it was, I had to be on an independent label. I always wanted to do things my way, but it's kind of embarrassing because people might say 'Is this the best you can do?' But honestly, I don't care. I hardly talk to my current label at all.
You've produced many albums in addition to recording and writing your own material. What do you feel was your greatest triumph?
I suppose one of my favorite tracks I produced was "Watching the Detectives" by Elvis Costello. I love that track. It still sounds so original and really holds up to this day. I can't believe we managed to do something as good as that. That was the last record I did when Elvis did what I told him to do. Our roles changed after that.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't ask about your worst.
My disaster hmm. Let's just say there's a lot of them. When I was producing early in my career, you were always teetering on the edge of disaster. In the 1980s there was a seismic shift in the way you made records. All of a sudden, the artists had to be having a nice day and then the record companies could stick their snouts around the studio doors.
That's when I lost interest, when most producing jobs became a nuisance.
What: Nick Lowe with guest Eleni Mandell
When: 8 p.m. Thursday; doors open at 7.
Where: 24th Street Theater at the Sierra 2 Center, 2791 24th St., Sacramento
Cost: $35 advance; if not sold out, tickets will be available at the door.
Information: (916) 457-7553 www.swell-productions.com/pages/nicklowe