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Genre: alternative country

Born: Lyle Pearce Lovett

When: Nov. 1, 1957

Where: Klein, TX

The Studio Albums:

Hover over an album for the name and year of release. Click to see its DMDB page.

Lyle Lovett (1986) Pontiac (1988) Lyle Lovett and His Large Band (1989) Joshua Judges Ruth (1992) I Love Everybody (1994) The Road to Ensenada (1996) Step Inside This House (1998) Dr. T & the Women (soundtrack: 2000) My Baby Don’t Tolerate (2003) It’s Not Big, It’s Large (2007) Natural Forces (2009)


(Organized by dates of recording, not release)

Cowboy Man: Anthology Vol. 1 (1986-1989 + 2 new songs from 2001) Smile: Songs from the Movies (archives: 1993-2002)

Live Albums:

(Organized by dates of recording, not release)

Live in Texas (1995)

Key Tracks:

  • Cowboy Man (1986)
  • An Acceptable Level of Ecstasy (The Wedding Song) (1986)
  • Give Back My Heart (1987)
  • She’s No Lady (1988)
  • Pontiac (1988)
  • L.A. County (1988)
  • If I Had a Boat (1988)
  • I Married Her Just Because She Looks Like You (1988)
  • Nobody Knows Me (1989)
  • Here I Am (1989)
  • I’ve Been to Memphis (1992)
  • She Makes Me Feel Good (1992)
  • Church (1992)
  • Since the Last Time (1992)
  • Blues for Dixie (w/ Asleep at the Wheel) (1993)
  • Funny How Time Slips Away (w/ Al Green) (1994)
  • I Love Everybody (1994)
  • Creeps Like Me (1994)
  • Penguins (1994)
  • You’ve Got a Friend in Me (w/ Randy Newman) (1995)
  • Don’t Touch My Hat (1996)
  • That’s Right (You’re Not from Texas) (1996)
  • Private Conversation (1997)
  • Bears (1998)
  • Step Inside This House (1998)
  • Till It Shines (w/ Keb’ Mo’) (1999)
  • San Antonio Girl (2001)
  • My Baby Don’t Tolerate (2003)
  • In My Own Mind (2004)
  • South Texas Girl (2007)
  • No Big Deal (2008)

Album Sales (in millions):

sales in U.S. only 3.0
sales worldwide - estimated 3.0

Singles Sales (in millions):

sales in U.S. only --
sales worldwide - estimated --



One of my personal top 100 acts of all time. Click to learn more.

“Lyle Lovett was one of the most distinctive and original singer/songwriters to emerge during the ‘80s. Though he was initially labeled as a country singer, the tag never quite fit him. Lovett had more in common with ‘70s singer/songwriters like Guy Clark, Jesse Winchester, Randy Newman, and Townes Van Zandt, combining a talent for incisive, witty lyrical detail with an eclectic array of music, ranging from country and folk to big-band swing and traditional pop. Lovett’s literate, multi-layered songs stood out among the formulaic Nashville hit singles of the late ‘80s as well as the new traditionalists who were beginning to take over country music. Drawing from alternative country and rock fans, Lovett quickly built up a cult following which began to spill over into the mainstream with his second album, 1988’s Pontiac. Following Pontiac, his country audience declined, but his reputation as a songwriter and musician continued to grow, and he sustained a dedicated cult following throughout the ‘90s.” STE

Early Years (1957-1983)
“Born in Klein, TX – a small town named after his great-grandfather, a Bavarian weaver called Adam Klein, which later became a Houston suburb – Lovett was raised on his family horse ranch” STE “and lived next door to Robert Earl Keen.” WK His parents were “William and Bernell (née Klein) Lovett, a marketing executive and training specialist, respectively. He was raised as a Lutheran and lived next door to Robert Earl Keen.” WK

“He didn’t begin his musical career until he began writing songs while he attended Texas A&M University in the late ‘70s, where he studied journalism and German. While he was a student, he performed covers and original songs at local folk festivals and clubs. As a graduate student, he traveled to Germany to study and continued to write and play while he was in Europe. However, he didn’t begin to pursue a musical career in earnest until he returned to America in the early ‘80s.” STE

From Songwriter to Singer (1983-1986)
“Upon his return to the States, Lovett played clubs throughout Texas, eventually landing a spot in the 1983 Mickey Rooney TV-movie Bill: On His Own. The following year Nanci Griffith, whom Lyle had interviewed for a school paper while he was in college, recorded his If I Were the Woman You Wanted on her Once in a Very Blue Moon album. He also sang on the album as well as her 1985 record Last of the True Believers. Guy Clark heard a demo tape of Lovett’s songs in 1984 and directed it toward Tony Brown of MCA Records. Over the next year, MCA worked out the details of a record contract with Lyle.” STE

“Lovett signed with MCA/Curb in 1986, releasing his eponymous debut later in the year. Lyle Lovett received excellent reviews, and five of its singles – Farther Down the Line, the Top Ten Cowboy Man, God Will, Why I Don’t Know, and Give Back My Heart – reached the country Top 40. Despite his strong showing on the country charts, it was clear from the outset that Lovett’s musical tastes didn’t rely on country.” STE “Though the genre provided the foundation of his sound,” STE “Lovett’s compositions often incorporate folk, swing, blues, jazz and gospel music as well as more traditional country & Western styling.” WK

Beyond Country (1987-1989)
Pontiac, his second album, revealed exactly how eclectic and literate Lovett was. Greeted with overwhelmingly positive reviews from both country and mainstream publications upon its 1987 release, Pontiac expanded his audience in the pop and rock markets. The album charted in the lower reaches of the pop charts and slowly worked its way toward gold status. While his pop audience grew, his country fan base began to shrink – She’s No Lady and I Loved You Yesterday both made the Top 30, but after those two songs, none of his other singles cracked the country Top 40.” STE

“It didn't matter that Lovett’s country audience was disappearing – Pontiac had gained enough new fans in the pop mainstream to guarantee him a strong cult following. To support Pontiac, he assembled His Large Band, which was a modified big band complete with guitars, a cellist, a pianist, horns, and a gospel-trained backup singer named Francine Reed. Lovett recorded his third album, Lyle Lovett and His Large Band, with his touring band. Like its two predecessors, the album was well-received critically upon its early 1989 release, and it performed well commercially, peaking at number 62 and eventually going gold. Perhaps because of the album’s eclectic, jazzy sound, the album produced only one minor country hit in I Married Her Just Because She Looks Like You, but his straight rendition of Tammy Wynette’s Stand by Your Man received a great deal of attention in the media.” STE

Becoming an Icon (1990-1995)
“Following the release of His Large Band, Lovett settled out in California, which signaled that he was abandoning country. After settling in Los Angeles, he spent the next two years collaborating and working on his fourth album. In 1990, he produced Walter Hyatt’s King Tears album; the following year, he sang on Leo Kottke’s Great Big Boy and donated a cover of Friend of the Devil to the Grateful Dead tribute album Deadicated. Also in 1991, he made his acting debut in Robert Altman’s The Player, which was released in the spring of 1992.” STE

“A few months after The Player hit the theaters, Lovett’s fourth album, Joshua Judges Ruth, was released. Boasting a heavy gospel and R&B influence, Joshua Judges Ruth was his most successful album to date, peaking at number 57 and going gold. On the whole, the album was ignored by country radio, but pop audiences embraced the record, and Lovett became a staple on adult alternative radio and VH1.” STE

In 1993, “Lovett became a near-superstar” STE “when he married actress Julia Roberts. The couple had met on the set of The Player in 1992. After a three-week romance, they eloped and married in June 1993 in Marion, Indiana.” WK

Movie and Television Appearances
In addition to The Player, “Lovett has acted in a number of films, including Robert Altman’s films: …Short Cuts (1993), Prêt-à-Porter (1994), The Opposite of Sex (1998), Cookie’s Fortune (1999), and composed for Dr. T & the Women (2000). More recently, he has acted in The New Guy (2002) and Walk Hard: the Dewey Cox Story (2007). His television acting forays include Mad About You, Brothers & Sisters and Dharma & Greg.” WK

“Lovett was given an award called an ‘Esky’ for Surest Thing in Esquire’s 2006 Esky Music Awards in the April issue. The magazine said of Lovett: ‘The secret of Lyle Lovett’s endurance comes down to the three C's: class, charisma and consistency...In the studio and on stage with his giant orchestra, he’s spent two decades gracefully matching genuine songcraft with A-list musicianship.’” WK

Back to the Music (1994-1999)
“Lyle’s next album came in “the fall of 1994, when I Love Everybody hit the stores. A collection of songs Lovett wrote in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, I Love Everybody continued his move away from country, and it was the first record he had released that didn’t expand his audience in some way.” STE

Lyle and Julia divorced “in March 1995. The marriage breakup was said to be caused by their career demands causing the two to often be away from each other. They would, though, remain friends, and Roberts would even sing one of Townes Van Zandt’s songs (recorded by Lovett on Step Inside This House) in her 1998 movie Stepmom…Lovett has been dating April Kimble since 1999.” WK

“Lyle began to retreat from the spotlight somewhat, spending the remainder of the year touring and writing. Lovett re-emerged with The Road to Ensenada, the first album since Pontiac to be dominated by country songs, in the summer of 1996. In addition to performing well on the pop charts, where it entered at a career peak of number 24, The Road to Ensenada performed strongly on the country charts, entering at number four. The two-disc covers album Step Inside This House followed in 1998, featuring mostly underexposed material penned by some of Lovett’s favorite songwriters (many of whom hailed from Texas).” STE

Lyle also picked up several Grammys during this era. He had already won “Best Country Male Vocal (1989) for Lyle Lovett and His Large Band),” WK but now added three more, “including Best Country Album (1996 for The Road to Ensenada), Best Country Duo/Group with Vocal (1994 for Blues for Dixie with the Texas swing group Asleep at the Wheel), [and] Best Pop Vocal Collaboration (1994 for Funny How Time Slips Away with Al Green).” WK

Retreat (1999-2003)
After Step Inside This House, Lyle wouldn’t release another album of new material until 2003. In the meantime, “Lovett issued his first concert record, Live in Texas, and his soundtrack to the Altman film Dr. T. & the Women followed a year later.” STE In 2001, he released a greatest hits collection that, save for two newly recorded songs, consisted of material from the ‘80s. “Smile, a collection of songs recorded for various movie soundtracks, appeared in 2003.” STE

“His small-town life was again brought to the public’s attention on March 28, 2002 when Lovett was caught by a bull and rammed into a fence on his uncle's farm in Klein, Texas, before being pulled to safety. Lovett fully recovered after six months and began touring again in the summer of 2003.” WK

The Return (2003-2009)
After laying low for five years, Lovett re-emerged with 2003’s My Baby Don’t Tolerate on Lost Highway. The label also released It’s Not Big It’s Large, in 2007.” STE He followed that a mere two years later with 2009’s Natural Forces.

Review Sources:

Last updated January 12, 2010.