In the latest installment of our ongoing symposium with Austin City Limits Executive Producer Terry Lickona, KUTX host Jody Denberg reconnects with Terry to talk recent tapings, tease upcoming tapings, and chat about the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame awards ceremony on October 26. Get your TIX HERE!
Read the interview below
Jody: About once a month I am lucky enough to touch base with the executive producer of the Austin City Limits television program, Terry Lickona. How are you tonight, sir?
Terry: Doing great. This is our monthly chat.
Jody: It is. And I always look forward to meeting you. And I got to wear a jacket to work today. And you have a flannel shirt.
Terry: I know. What a great feeling.
Jody: It feels wonderful. And the festival that has been going on in our town since 2002, that takes your television program name the “Austin City Limits Music Festival,” just wrapped up what I think is their 22nd year. Could you have ever envisioned when they came to you with this proposition for a festival that here would be two decades later talking about it?
Terry: Well, when we talked with the original three back in the day about this idea of starting a music festival, they really wanted to use our name because it gave them instead a credibility to be able to not only attract the kind of artists that they wanted, but also to attract the kind of fans that knew what Austin City Limits was all about. So it’s worked out for everybody. It’s hard to believe, Jody, that the festival is almost half as old as ACL, the TV show, has been around.
Jody: And it’s also hard to believe that you just concluded your 49th season, which means season five is in the wings. But let’s talk about the wrap up of season 49. Often you will have some of the artists who are playing the festival, taped the program if possible. That happened a couple of times this year, right?
Terry: Absolutely. We always try to grab a few of the, you know, not just the headliners, but other artists who are playing at the fest. So this year we had Brittney Spencer, a very talented, young, country oriented Americana artist who is currently living in Nashville. Then we had the legendary Alanis Morissette, who had never done our show before. And man, she is in prime form the way her voice is still a powerhouse. I mean, and she was going back and forth on that stage nonstop. So it was a beautiful show in itself. And then we had the Foo Fighters who really have become friends and part of the ACL family. This is their third time to perform on the show. And of course, they were headliners at the festival. Then to cap it all off and end our 49th season, Bonnie Raitt couldn’t have been better. What a great way and great feeling, too, to end the season. And that was just last night. And, you know, the sound of Bonnie’s voice and those songs still resonate in my head as we speak. She’s such a beautiful soul. Everybody knows that. To watch her and to hear her, frankly, I think Bonnie Raitt is in her prime right now and she’s having the time of her life.
That’s that’s the thing about these people, Jody, about Bonnie and about Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters. They are really having fun out there, you know? Yeah, they could complain about the rigors of being on the road and so forth. But they both talked about how lucky they are to be able to do what they do and how good they feel about it. This was Bonnie’s last show of the current tour and now she’s off basically until March. She said she was sad that she really didn’t want to go home. She’s going to miss her crew. She was going to miss meeting people on the road. You know, often I hear the opposite from younger people who once they get out there, they realize it’s a lot of work sometimes, you know, and they don’t like it all of the time.
Jody: You know, after you do a taping and if I haven’t been able to attend like a Bonnie Raitt or a Foo Fighters, I go to ACL on TVGuide.com because you generously will list the setlist that the artists do on the program. I often wonder, okay, Foo Fighters, for instance, or Bonnie Raitt, who did play The Moody Theater the night before? For the general public, do they alter their shows, especially when they have current releases? They might want to focus on more for the television audience. Do they alter their setlists from the festival to what you do?
Terry: Absolutely. It’s a fascinating process to watch and see how their minds work. If you saw the Foos at the festival and then they’re taping with us or Bonnie the night before at ACL Live and then her taping the next night, very, very different shows. In both cases, the Foos and Bonnie asked, “Could you get us a list of every song we’ve performed in the past on Austin City Limits?” because they didn’t want to repeat the same songs. Even in Bonnie’s case. Well, that was in 1984, the first time she might have performed Fill In the Blank, but they wanted to showcase some of their newer material. And in the case of both Foos with their album this year and Bonnie’s most recent, which of course scored so well at the Grammys this year, they wanted to to capture those new songs that had never perhaps been captured for television before and for posterity. So they would customize their setlists, both Foos and Bonnie, just for our taping. It’s hard because they’re used to performing essentially the same setlist night after night after night on the road. And so to wrap their heads around this whole idea of, well, we’re going to pull some deep cuts from an album from way back and kind of find the right place to put that and still think in terms of what makes for the best flow. Especially being mindful too that, well, the audience is going to expect certain mix of golden oldies and classic songs from each of them. But when all was said and done, they both did beautiful shows, both very different from what they normally do, which makes it even that much more special.
Jody: Well, it’s not a spoiler alert. If I tell you ahead of time that if you go to ACL on TVGuide.com you can see the setlist that the artists performed for the television taping. If you want to be surprised when those programs air, just hold off and wait. We’ll circle back to Bonnie in a moment, but here we go. So you’ve wrapped up season 49. I’m sure the wheels are turning for the 50th season, but you have one other thing that’s turned out to be really the conclusion of every season, or it could be looked at as the beginning of the next one, which is the Austin City Limits Music Hall of Fame induction. So please tell me about that show.
Terry: I think I can tell you pretty much everything about it including the complete lineup. We created the ACL Hall of Fame on the occasion of our 40th anniversary. That was that was part of the idea of how to celebrate 40 and now here we are about to hit 50. But, this is our ninth annual Hall of Fame show. We of course, weren’t able to do one during COVID times. This year we are inducting Trisha Yearwood, one of the first major female country artists successful for her time, who appeared on our show, and the late great John Prine, who of course we still miss every day and whose songs still continued to resonate. And as a footnote to that, when John died in 2020, our original plan was to induct him into the Hall of Fame. At the time, in fact, I had seen John at the Grammys literally just weeks before he died, and he was very excited about coming here and and letting us honor and celebrate him. He had done the show eight times over the years. Back then when he had passed and there were so many other tributes to him, we decided to put that idea on hold, but this year seemed like the right time to do it so we are inducting John into the ACL Hall of Fame. His beautiful wife, Fiona, and his three sons are going to be here to accept on his behalf.
Also in the lineup with Trisha Yearwood is Don Henley, who has done a duet or two with Trisha over the years, is coming to do her induction speech and to perform with her. We have Ronnie Dunn from Brooks and Dunn, Jody Mussina, Brandy Clark, who’s out on a bit of a hot streak herself right now, and the Brothers Osborne. So they’ll be performing with or in honor of Trisha Yearwood. And then for John, we have Ethan Hawke, well-known actor and Austin native, who’s going to be doing the induction speech for John and then to mix things up a little bit from maybe the traditional artists who have done John Prine tributes in the past, we have Kurt Vile, Tyler Childers, Valerie June, Allison Russell and Nathaniel Rateliff, which I think is a really cool mix of people to come and do John Prine songs.
Jody: You just blew my mind with the list of John Prine inductors.
Terry: All are going to do a finale of one of John’s classic songs at the end of the night too.
Jody: What’s the date on the Hall of Fame?
Terry: Well, the date is October 26th, and there are still a limited number of tickets available to the public. So, you know, this is also a fundraiser for Austin PBS. And we’re quite familiar with fundraisers in public media. So if you’re interested in getting some tickets for the show, just go to our website at ACLTV.com and check it out. We’d love to see you out that night.
Jody: One week from this Thursday, the ACL Hall of Fame induction. I mean, Trisha Yearwood is married to Garth Brooks. I’m just wondering if there’e any vibe as to whether Mr. Brooks will be attending?
Terry: We don’t know, but it seems hard to imagine he’d pass up an opportunity to come and celebrate his his wife. But we will leave that up to those two to figure out.
Jody: Yes and he’s such a gracious man. He has done the program before in the Chris Gaines guise at one point. He’s also a great supporter of public media, so either way, it’s going to be wonderful. And, I remember that was one of my first ACL Hall of Fame induction shows that I went to and respectfully, they all start to blur together for me because I go to all of them. You know, I have a beer or two. I have a good time. So I think I saw Bonnie inducted and then I also think she did some inducting over the years.
Terry: Yes, she was there to help us honor B.B. King, but we also did indeed induct and celebrate Bonnie herself in 2016. But, you know, you’re right. It is kind of a blur when it comes to who was inducted and when.
Jody: It’s a happy blur.
Terry: And we are recording the entire event. Of course, why wouldn’t we? It’s going to air as a special episode of ACL in early January.
Jody: So John Prine, Trisha Yearwood, both being honored this year, a week from Thursday, October 26th. Limited tickets remain at ACLTV.com, Don Henley to Tyler Childers and many stops in between. Incredible. When I looked at Bonnie’s setlist before I read the copy preceding it, I was going. Well, she’s kind of got to do Angel from Montgomery for you guys, even though she’s probably done it most of the times she’s appeared on the show, which is a song that John Prine wrote. Was there some discussion with Bonnie like, ‘Hey, you have done this before?’ Or did she say, ‘Hey, I’ve done this before, Should I do it again?’ Or all of that?
Terry: As a matter of fact, because as I said, she wanted to do some of the newer songs and not so much songs she had already done on ACL in the past. So that was not originally on her setlist. But, you know, once we explained to her that we were indeed inducting John in the Hall of Fame and that the episode will air literally just a couple of weeks before Bonnie’s own episode in January that it would be great timing if she could do that song for John sort of as a follow up to the Hall of Fame show honoring him. So she totally got it as to why that made sense and yes, indeed, she did do the song as part of her set on Sunday night.
Jody: Terry, I wish you all the best for the ACL Hall of Fame induction a week from Thursday, ACLTV.com for more info. I wish you all the best in your cogitation as you approach the big Five-O show and which way you decide to go with that. I know it will be many different ways.
Terry: Oh, the wheels indeed are turning. In fact, I’m not going to tell you or anybody, but we have or have already basically bought our first show for the 50th anniversary season. Several others are in the works too. Well, stay tuned, as they say.
Jody: I will ask you every time you come in the next few months when you’re ready to divulge that information. My guest today and every month, Terry Lickona, executive producer for Austin City Limits Television. Thank you, Terry.
Terry: Thank you Jody.