Be it L.A.’s “Wrecking Crew,” the Muscle Shoals “Swampers” or Nashville’s endless stream of session players, it’s easy to be drawn to the stories of musicians who provide the backbone to great songs but probably wouldn’t be recognized in a grocery store.
Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams fit this description perfectly. Collectively, the pair has backed Levon Helm, Emmylou Harris, Phil Lesh, Bob Dylan, Rodney Crowell, Elvis Costello and Rosanne Cash among many others. Toss in the fact that the musical duo have been married for nearly 30 years and the story gets even more interesting. These days, Campbell and Williams are taking their rightful places in the spotlight with this year’s release of their self-titled debut album.
Speaking ahead of Wednesday night’s show at the Alabama Theatre, the duo discussed touring with Jackson Browne and maintaining their marriage on the road.
Weld: How has the tour with Jackson gone so far?
Larry Campbell: Fabulous – it’s kind of a dream come true. Jackson’s just a wonderful cat and a really generous guy. He’s giving us a great opening slot – we are playing with his band backing us up. I get to play guitar with him all night and Teresa comes out and does a couple of duets with him.
Weld: Given the length of your careers, why was now the right time for the recording of this album? Why not ten years ago or twenty years ago?
LC: It had always been in the back of our minds in some form or fashion. In all of those years with Levon [Helm], Teresa and I were honing what we do together within the parameters of the Levon thing. We would have an opportunity to perform some of our own material.
Teresa Williams: [Levon] needed everybody to step up because of his vocal situation. It made him much more secure to have a lot of people around him. We slowly took on more and more as his voice deteriorated.
LC: Soon after Levon died, we got in gear and we wanted to get the record done.
TW: We were busy and when he passed, we suddenly had time.
Weld: How did you select the material for the album?
LC: Some of the songs had been written before the record and some were written during the process. The oldest tune on the record, “Down On My Knees,” was written in the ‘80s. As we were putting this record together, I remembered that tune and we pulled it out and it seemed to work.
Weld: It’s impressive that you have maintained a lengthy marriage given that your careers require endless travel. What’s the secret behind your success as a couple?
LC: Boy, that’s a wonderful question and I wish there was a concrete answer [laughs]. We’re coming up on our 28th anniversary this month. The reason it works is because we’re both pursuing the things we love to do – performing, recording and creating. It’s a passion that both of us share. For the past decade, we’ve been doing it together. That can be a recipe for disaster.
TW: It’s personal. [Little Feat keyboardist] Bill Payne will stay with us a lot when he’s in the Northeast and he says what you’re putting out in your music is your soul and it’s personal.
LC: So, that’s potential for friction in a lot of ways. But when Teresa and I met each other, we knew who we were and we were very comfortable.
TW: There’s no way you can understand it unless you’ve experienced it. I’ve heard that wives go on the road and visit and then they want to go home because it’s not exactly what they thought [laughs].
Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams will open for Jackson Browne at the Alabama Theatre on Wednesday, Oct. 14. Tickets to the 8 p.m. show are $46-$96. For more information, visit alabamatheatre.com.