Johnny and June, George and Tammy, Conway and Loretta, Gram and Emmylou: Country music has a long tradition of co-ed duet partners, and it’s about to welcome one more pair. Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison both had blossoming solo careers when they wed back in 1996, but they haven’t recorded a full album together — until now. Their first LP as collaborators is called Cheater’s Game, and they discuss it here with weekend on All Things Considered guest host Don Gonyea.
On the lack of classic male/female cover songs on the album
Robison: “We’ve had a couple of people that said they were surprised or perhaps happy that we didn’t just go with some of the classic duets that we all know and love. Honestly, we didn’t even consider that approach to it. I was just gonna look for the best songs. Didn’t matter where they came from. We just looked for these songs that felt good when we sang them.”
Bruce and Kelly on the presence of a rare instrument on a country album, a tuba
Robison: “I think we were going for The Band … on that track a little bit. We had a really amazing producer named Brad Jones who was in there as a partner with us. I don’t think either one of us was arguing for tuba on our record, but that was his idea. And it was a good one.”
Willis: “Yes, we were waiting to see how we felt about the tuba. Turned out, we really liked it!”
On having 4 kids in the span of 5 years:
Willis: “Stupidest thing we’ve ever done! I mean, it’s great. I love those kids. But having them four in five years, that was kinda intense … We’ve shortened the way we tour. We have to do weekends … Last night our 7-year old started crying and said, ‘You’re never home on the holidays!’ And that was just the biggest lie — we’re home for every single holiday. But he goes, ‘It’s just one of the bad things about being famous, I guess!’ “