Gary James' Interview With
Lacy J. Dalton

In 1979, the Academy Of Country Music named her the Top New Female Vocalist Of The Year. In 1980 she was signed by Columbia Records and enjoyed a number of hit records in the 1980s, including "Crazy Blue Eyes", "Takin' It Easy" and "16th Avenue". People magazine called her "Country's Bonnie Raitt." Who is this woman we're talking about? None other than Lacy J. Dalton.

Q - How difficult is it for an independent artist like yourself to get the attention you deserve these days? You do have your own record label.

A - I do. I think it's a lot easier for people who are really good on the computer. If you're good on the computer and you like to be on the computer and you enjoy that and you kind of live on the computer, that's great if you're an independent artist. I don't like sitting in one place. I detest typing. I don't want to be in front of that computer any more than I absolutely have to be. So, I have people that do that for me. But when it isn't exactly you doing it, I don't think it's nearly as potent. But I have two other jobs. I run a 501c3 (not-for-profit organization) for wild horses. I was a co-creator and have been the president since 2003 of the Let 'Em Run Foundation, and we have a big job trying to pressure and protect horses out here in the West. I also work two days a week at a Level 4 prison up in Sissonville, California, teaching the inmates songwriting and guitar.

Q - You are one busy lady!

A - I do a lot of stuff like that. My son, on computer, is like the ultimate geek. He's on the cutting edge of that Google glasses technology. He's very, very good and very proficient at the computer stuff and him and my daughter just love computers. They're both constantly on them. That is not my world, and so I think if you are really good on the computer and love being on the computer, being an independent artist is a lot easier than it is for somebody like me who it's not really my thing.

Q - You're from Pennsylvania. You make your home these days in Virginia City, Nevada. Is that correct?

A - Well, close to it. I'm about three quarters of a way up. Reno sits in a beautiful valley called the Truckee Meadows, between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and on the east a smaller mountain range called the Virginia Range. Up at the top of that Virginia Range, in that mountain range, is Virginia City, Nevada. I live about three quarters of the way up the road from Truckee Meadows, Reno, to Virginia City in a place called the Virginia City Highlights, which is one in ten of 40 acres ranches.

Q - Have you ever called Nashville home?

A - I have. I spent about eight years in Nashville.

Q - How much Country music were you exposed to in Pennsylvania when you were growing up?

A - Well, it was about all I heard. It's the southern tip of the Appalachians, close to Kentucky. Very close to Virginia and West Virginia. Very close to a lot of the hot bed of Country and Bluegrass music. My mother, father and sister all played Country music. I was the un-musical one in the family. I never picked up a guitar until I was seventeen or eighteen years old.

Q - So, you went from being a truck stop waitress to getting signed to Columbia Records. How did that happen?

A - Well, it's kind of true. It wasn't a truck stop I was working. It was a small restaurant in the Santa Cruz mountains. I had worked in truck stops. I waited tables from the time I was about probably fourteen, maybe younger, 'til I was about thirty-six years old. I did that while I was doing my music on the side. In the Santa Cruz mountains I was working in a little restaurant where we would make crepes all day. It was a fantastic place actually. The food was really organic and very earth friendly. Everything was way before its time. Organic foods. Tasty things. At night a lot of us were musicians and we would play in the place while they were serving dinner and after dinner.

Q - How then did you come to the attention of Columbia Records?

A - Well, I made a record in a garage in Santa Cruz with a friend and I happened to send it to another friend of mine who was kind of a famous criminal attorney. He had brought in the Hillside Strangler. His name was David Wood. He was a great fan of Country music. Some of the material on that CD was Country, though I really loved Folk music. I grew up with nothing but Country and maybe Perry Como. You could hear a little bit of Pop music. My parents loved Country music and they played it. When I first heard Joan Baez and Bob Dylan and some of the early New York folkies, I just loved what they were talking about. I loved the music. And I still play a mixture of all that.

Q - You really like Hank Williams Sr., don't you?

A - I really do. He was so important. He was such an important artist in Country music. He had such a unique vocal style. His vocal style was so utterly different. I think it really made inroads. People really listened to him and his mournful lyrics, which were that sort of Appalachian Country music. That's more like what you might hear in classic Appalachian music. He kind of combined that. A Black man with a kind of a bluesy thing and that is really where Country music came from, from the Scottish/Irish Folk balladeers and the Black music of that day, which was Robert Johnson and folks like Leadbelly. A combination of those two forms actually created Country music. Hank Williams was kind of a blend of all of that and so unique, his voice and his style and his lyrics were so simple. For such a young person he seemed to have such a great grasp of what relationships were like between men and women. Hank Williams and people like Woody Guthrie, Jimmie Rodgers, Lefty Frizell, who were very, very important in Country music and the roots of Country music and bringing those simple working man and working persons concerns to the recording studio and out into the world. I very much honor those folks.

Q - You would also be a fan of Patsy Cline, wouldn't you?

A - I like Patsy Cline very much. Some of the songs she first did, "Crazy". I also like Patti Page. Those were foundational female people.

Q - You also host your own weekly radio show on the internet?

A - I have a radio show, yes. It's a 'live' radio show. We broadcast 'live' and we also go on the internet. It's called Mustang Matters and it all about wild horses. Wild horses are a big deal in Nevada. We have more of them here than anywhere else in the world. Our state and federal governments are always trying to just get rid of them. It's a constant fight to try to save these animals which is the will of the American people. 82% of us want to preserve and protect the wild horses, but our state and federal governments seem to want to ignore that. The Bureau Of Land Management Advisory Board just told them they should euthanize 92,000 animals. 92,000 animals! That's the Advisory Board! They're not the Bureau Of Land Management. They are people outside the Bureau who have an opinion about that. However, those people are not paying attention to the will and the express will of the American people, which was expressed very well in 1971 with the Wild Horses And Burros Protection Act, which was passed and had more letters to Congress than any other issue than the Vietnam War.

Q - If you have a ranch there, how many of these horses can you end up saving?

A - Well, we've saved thousands over the years. Thousands and thousands of 'em and re-homed them. We work with a lot of groups that are boots on the ground. I just try to raise money for the people who are really doing the real work with wild horses, in fact taking the ones that are on the way to slaughter and finding homes for them because they're very, very wonderful animals. A lot of them have quarter horse blood and thorough bred blood and Arabian blood. There are a lot of different types of them. They're good at a lot of different things. A lot of them, because of the Mustang in them, have very, very strong legs and hard hooves and are very capable of doing all kinds of wonderful things. It's amazing what these animals can do. And they bond a little differently than a domestic horse. They bond very strongly with the people that have them. A lot of them bond really more like a dog than they do a horse. It depends on the horse of course. A number of them will say, "I've never had a horse I like better."

Q - You have to admire your efforts to save these wild horses. So many people in the entertainment business today have the I, Me, Mine attitude.

A - They almost have to because it is so utterly competitive. They almost have to be single-minded about what they're doing. That has never been my forte. I'm like the old fashioned balladeer. I really want to have a life that is not just simply about a career. I do believe that music is a spiritual medium. I don't think it needs to be cheapened. I think it has a message for people. It keeps people going. It gives people strength. It gives people courage. It is not an easy world to be in. This place is a beautiful and terrible place. People have very hard traits. These people need music. Music often times helps these people get through these difficult trials. I think it is a spiritual medium. And I treat it like that.

Q - With all that you have going on in your life, are you able to get out and tour?

Q - Just about every other weekend. And sometimes every weekend. We mostly are weekend warriors now. But I really feel blessed that I have been able my whole life to pretty much support myself with music. Even though I don't have a big record company behind me anymore, that is a blessing. It was a blessing that it happened and I would never be able to still be working if it hadn't happened. It would've been very hard. That record career was a very wonderful gift to me and I worked with some very fabulous people during that time, but I wasn't happy because I could only do part of the music that was in me. I always had to compromise and put in half of the things they were hoping would be hits, or thought would be hits. I didn't really have a free reign a lot of the time. Now I can play all the music I want to play. I can say anything I want to say on that stage. I can give people the nourishment that I think they need and the fun that they need and I don't have to worry about being edited or held in, in any way. I don't have any censors in my life now. That is a huge blessing, freedom. To be an artist and be free, to be able to work and express the things that are important to me. I'm very grateful for the way my life is now. I would like to work more. I would like to have an agent that was really, really aggressive and had me working every every weekend. I would really enjoy that. I don't really have that. I have independent agents that help me. As far as the rest of the music business, that is not why I got into music. I never got into music to be a star or do that. It was wonderful that it happened for me because it's allowed me to keep on working for a long time.

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Lacy J Dalton
Photo from Gary James' press kit collection