BORN and bred in Nashville, Tennessee, Kurt Wagner is the creative brain behind “alternative country” band Lambchop. He has been making music under the moniker since 1986, releasing 12 studio albums. His wife is chairwomen of the Democratic Party in Tennessee, which is referenced in the title of Lambchop’s latest record: Flotus. Wagner told EDWIN GILSON about the album and life in a Southern state in Donald Trump’s presidency

Flotus is quite a departure for Lambchop with its use of electronic elements and auto-tuned vocals. Did you think a shake-up was needed?

It’s something that was brewing for quite a while. I was starting to experiment with other techniques and equipment and that all led to a different way of making music. I was getting more and more into electronic music in general.

You said you set out to make an album that your wife would like. Does she like it?

Yeah, I think she does. It took a while. At first she was a bit shocked because she likes the way my voice sounds normally, so for me to change that [with auto-tune] was strange to her. She listens to lots of music that has that kind of vocal effect going on, so I thought ‘she’ll love this’. But she truly does just love me for what I am [laughs].

Did you have any reservations about using auto-tune?

Not really. It was simply meant as a tool to correct imperfections in the human voice. What I found, though, was that the guys in hip-hop were using it in a more playful way. I found it could be used in a cool, soulful way – it doesn’t have to be jarring and robotic. It can have some emotional expressiveness. That’s what really interested me.

You said that hip-hop artists Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar were big inspirations.

Yeah. Those guys are pretty omnipresent, you can’t really escape them. But I went further into their music and studied what they were up to – particularly Kendrick, because he’s a genious.

The title Flotus partly refers to your wife’s political position. Has your knowledge of local politics increased since she has held that role?

Yeah, as my wife got further and further involved in politics I realised I had to up my game and start keeping up with what’s going on. I didn’t want to be a complete boob when I was interacting socially with people she knows. Hopefully I’ll know what’s going on and will be able to contribute to the conversation.

The album was released just a few days before Donald Trump’s victory in the US election. Were you in Tennessee at the time?

I was in London, actually, doing promotion. It was pretty weird. I had to go on British radio next morning and field some pretty tricky questions about it.

Is it disorientating being a Democrat in a mostly Trump-supporting state?

You don’t really notice that as the first thing about the place. I grew up in Tennessee and the state in general has always been a pretty conservative place. You tend to stick with the people that see things your way, though. I’m not a politician so I don’t really stray out beyond my own little world.

So you don’t come across Trump voters very often?

I do sometimes, particularly if they drive Uber cars or if they work in lifts. You run into them and they say something that makes you think, ‘wow, they’re obviously Trump people’. So long as you don’t really engage them in the hot topics, they’re just people who are having a tough time. That’s understandable and that’s what got the guy into power. They were looking for some kind of change. It’s not working out for Trump, per se, but you have to understand that underneath it all we all share the same problems. In essence, most of those people are like you and I. It’s just that they happened to have voted for an a*******.

In another interview you mentioned how gentrified Nashville has become in your eyes. Is there a notable disparity in wealth?

It’s getting to be more so, yeah. It’s disturbing and I wonder how this has come to pass and where all this affluence has come from. It is unsettling, because I used to live in a balanced area. I’m not sure why it’s happened. In general, it’s a very young demographic but I don’t know how they can afford it. They seem to get by, or maybe they’re not getting by.

You said that you enjoyed painting when you were younger because you didn’t enjoy the “confrontation of communication with people”. Is this still a relevant self-analysis?

I’d say it’s fairly true. Painting is a very solitary activity but music means getting out and communicating more. I’ve come out of my shell a bit.

How did your past life as a painter aid your music?

I’ve always liked making and creating things. Music and art were always happening simultaneously for me. I still do art as much as I can, but it’s difficult when I’m travelling and making records. This life can be pretty all-consuming.

Lambchop, De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, Friday, August 18, for more information and tickets call 01424 229111 or visit