During his 45-year career, there are few topics that singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III hasn’t covered. He has written emotional songs about his family, novelty hits and tracks about everyday matters from aging to finding a parking spot.
He also has sung and acted in numerous movies and TV shows, from “M*A*S*H” in the 1970s to Judd Apatow’s “Knocked Up” and “Undeclared,” which exposed him to a whole new audience.
amNewYork spoke with Wainwright about his career and his most recent album, “Haven’t Got the Blues (Yet).”
Many baby boomers are still performing, but you’re one of the few to write honestly about aging. Did you have any hesitation about it?
I’ve always written about getting older. The first line on the first song of my first album is “In Delaware when I was younger.” I was probably 23 when I wrote it. I’ve always been a little hung up I suppose. It seems like an interesting topic, one’s failing powers (laughs).
When you write about things like parking or walking the dog, when do you think “this is a song”?
It doesn’t take much. Often you start with the first line of a song. The first line of the parking song [“Spaced”] is “A space is a place, it’s a beautiful thing.” I must have said that or thought it. Then the songwriter in me says, “Wait a minute. That has a nice little balance and feel to it.” You just kind of go on and try to come up with the next line. A lot of time that’s really all it is, finding a starting point.
How do you feel about having your kids, Rufus, Martha and Lucy, writing songs about you?
Well, if you dish it out, you gotta take it. My kids are pretty good songwriters. Some of the songs are extremely personal. Rufus has a song called “Dinner at Eight,” which references our relationship. It’s very well-crafted and has a nice emotional arc. It’s a great song, so I’m all for it.
How did you get to know Judd Apatow?
As a teenager, he grew up in Syosset and saw me on TV. When the Letterman show first started, it was on in the afternoon and I was one of the first guests. I think Judd saw me on the show and liked it. He figured out a way to come into town and see me perform a bunch of times and became a fan. Twenty-something years later he got in touch and asked me about being in his show “Undeclared.” It turned out he was a big fan and knew all the songs. I’ve continued to do various things with him. He has a new show coming out on Netflix called “Love.” I have a song that’s going to be in one of those episodes.