“Willie Sugarcapps came about as a result of everybody just saying yes, as opposed to, you know, the ol’ just-say-no thing. Nobody said anything like, ‘You do this here’ or ‘You do that there.’ When we got together, the full spectrum of making music came together just naturally. We’re all used to being the front-person but when we started in on the vocal harmonies, it just happened on its own, and for all of us it felt really, really good.
The idea for Willie Sugarcapps came from these concerts done in an in-the-round concept held [at the Frog Pond at Blue Moon Farm venue in coastal Alabama] during the season, which isn’t now, during summer, because it’s too hot and buggy. After we played together for the first time last fall, Johnny Fisher [former booking agent at House of Blues-New Orleans and now owner of Fisher’s restaurant/music venue in Orange Beach] came up to us and says, ‘Wow! That was some of the best stuff I’ve ever heard. We need to get y’all in the studio together; we can call y’all Willie Sugarcapps [derived from the names Will Kimbrough, Corky Hughes and the Sugarcane Jane duo of Anthony Crawford and Savana Lee].’
We finished the recording in one day, in about 12 hours. My wife Trina [Shoemaker, a Grammy-winning producer] spent more time on it making us sound good than we did making it. I just heard that it won Best Americana Album of 2013 at the Independent Music Awards, so obviously we’re happy about that.
We all brought material in and I offered up “Poison”—which I’ve been playing for a while but changed up the lyrics here to make it a protest against the BP oil spill. We’re a Gulf Coast band, so we should record it. I’ve never been happy with any recording I’ve ever done of it, though I really like the one the Soul Rebels did with John Mooney [“Drinka Little Poison” (4 U Die)” featured on the season-one soundtrack to HBO’s “Treme”].
For me personally, the biggest thing I got out of Love Song for Bobby Long [the 2004 film and Capps’ Oscar-nominated song for it] was it had my father’s book published; I pulled his manuscript out of my bottom drawer and gave it to this lady who said she was looking for a story to make into a move. And four or five years later, it’s a movie. The title is a play on T.S. Eliot’s poem ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ but it’s written for my dad’s friend, who was an outcast from our hometown Brewton [Alabama]. Everybody there thought he was dirt, but he was a good friend of my dad’s so I got to see a really pretty side of him. He’s dead now but I played the song for him after I wrote it; after listening to it, he grabbed me and leaned in, ‘You’ve immortalized me in song’ and that was really intense.
For me professionally, it came out at a time when I was at a crossroads, the same sort of crossroads we all reach at some point or another in life. I had been successful running a landscaping crew but I knew I couldn’t grow old doing that—I’d hate myself. So I decided to go for it, play music full-time and devote myself to that.”