Legends beget legends. In the case of the Guthrie family, the legend continues with Arlo Guthrie, who has carried on his family’s legacy of timeless folk music ever since his father, Woody, inspired an entire planet with his peaceful songs of protest. On Tuesday, April 11, Guthrie visits one of his favorite venues, the Lobero Theatre, for a night of inspiring classics on his Running Down The Road tour. I wrote Guthrie over email, who spoke about Santa Barbara, Alice’s Restaurant, and the nature of change.
How is your 2017 going? We’re now more than halfway through the current tour, and I couldn’t be more happy. It actually began last October and will end in May. We generally arrange the shows and tours in the same way that most venues do — that is, rather than the normal calendar year, our years run from June through the following May.
How do you feel about the upcoming S.B. show and S.B. in general, since you have family here? What kind of material will you be performing at the Lobero show? I’ve loved coming to Santa Barbara for over 50 years. We began performing at one of the hotels on the beach back in the late ’60s and have done the Bowl and other venues over the years. But the Lobero is one of my favorite places. The set list for this tour is posted on our home page [arloguthrie.com], although I’ve been known to alter it on occasion.
You recently celebrated the 50-year anniversary of Alice’s Restaurant. How does that feel? I know you celebrated with an anniversary tour, but how did you celebrate privately? That particular tour was a real highlight, what with all the additions to our normal road show. It was a bigger show in every way. Now we’re getting back to what is usual and a little easier. I was thrilled with the result of the anniversary tour, and privately I’m even happier it’s over.
If you were able to say something to that 1965 version of yourself, what would you say? Or what question might you ask him? I’ve somehow managed to avoid that particular therapy. But if I had to say something, it would be along the lines of “keep it short.”
You grew up in a very musical family and have musical children of your own … Was there anything like an anxiety of influence, a need to live up to the family’s legacy? Was there ever the temptation to break the mold? As a young person, I had dreams of becoming a forest ranger. But the circumstances of fate and the powers that be had other ideas for me. I don’t regret accepting the change of plan.
You’ve seen multiple generations of hope in the face of worrisome societal changes. Would you say your attitude toward hope/optimism has changed from the ’60s versus now? What keeps you hopeful? The world keeps changing — it’s the one true feature of its nature. In that sense, it stays the same. If you think too hard, it looks suspiciously confusing and doesn’t make sense. I’m guessing that it’s not supposed to make sense. You just do what you can to help without feeling like you have to do it all. When I see people continue to try to make the world more just, more fair, more fun for everyone, my hope is renewed.
Are there any present-day folk musicians you admire? Too many to mention, but yes.
What’s new with the Guthrie Center? Any 2017 plans? The Guthrie Center and its foundations continue to be helpful to many people. Like most not-for-profit organizations, we’re always struggling to do more with what we’ve got. As soon as the current tour is finished, I will be doing a three-day fundraiser for the old church. And I’ll probably do a few more later this year, although it’s not in the calendar yet.
Let’s say I had a funny incident happen to me lately and wanted to turn it into a folk song. What kinds of funny stories make for good folk songs? What’s funny and what’s important are two different things. To turn a funny story into a song is hard enough, but when something is funny and important, it gets a little easier, at least for me.
If you could make a time capsule now for citizens of the planet in the year 2050, what would you put in it? I’d probably include a note that asks, “Are we there yet?”
4·1·1Arlo Guthrie plays Tuesday, April 11, at 8 p.m., at the Lobero Theatre (33 E. Canon Perdido St.). For more information, call (805) 963-0761 or visit lobero.org.