Among country superstars, Dwight Yoakam has always been a guy who didn't fit in. A cool, mysterious dude in a crowd of boys next door. An Appalachian-turned-Angeleno who spurned Nashville. An actor with a penchant for playing creeps, psychos, and other unsavories. And recently, Yoakam enlisted Beck to produce a few songs on his latest album, 3 Pears, his first record of new material in seven years. "It's an expression of the music I hear going on in my head," Yoakam tells Kurt Andersen. "I feel free of genre boundaries." "Trying" is Yoakam's take on 1960s R&B; "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke" recalls the 'cowpunk' fusion that peaked in the '80s; the record even features a few piano ballads. Yoakam tells Kurt that the diversity of Los Angeles has had an important influence on country music. "There's always been a great comingling going back to the Dust Bowl collision of cultures," he says of Southern California. "It begat the hybrid forms of country music." The album's title is a tribute to John Lennon, whom Yoakam saw in a documentary mugging for the camera in three pairs of sunglasses. ("Movie star sunglasses, he clarifies, "not the wire rims.") It's "about the nonsense of joy," Dwight tells Kurt. "Joy is what the album was about for all of us who made it." Kurt asked Dwight Yoakam about his crossover success. His answer involves a "mosh pit pogo-sticking" punk rock kid, a somersaulting security guard, and flying beer bowls. You have to hear it to believe it. The band in our session includes Eugene Edwards on guitar, Brian Whelan on mandolin and accordion, Jonathan Clark on bass, Mitchell Marine on drums, and Yoakam on guitar and vocals.    Bonus Track: "Nothing But Love"Video: "A Heart Like Mine"

Related Stories