The show has ended; Peter Karp and Sue Foley have finished a terrific four-song set and joined in for a jam with the other bands on the bill as part of Nashville's weekly live radio broadcast Music City Roots and there are a couple things on their minds. First they need to get the bevy of guitars and stringed instruments they used for the show from the backstage to their van. I pick a couple of them up and laugh, telling them I've carried many a guitar for friends in bands having realized some time ago I couldn't actually play one worth a damn.
"We'll just be a second," Peter tells me as he loads the last of them. "Gotta take care of something- namely getting paid." He gives a wry smile and heads back into the Loveless Cafe to find the man with the money. Sue returns to the van and looks for Peter. I smile and rub my fingers together, giving the universal nonverbal signal for "money." She nods, knowingly, and grabs a seat on the curb, relaxing.
Peter returns, presumably with some form of payment and asks, "Where are we going to do this? I'm hungry. Let me go see if the kitchen has anything left." He darts off again and Sue and I make small talk while he's away.
"It's hard to get much of an appetite before a show," she tells me. "Afterwards, though, you're usually starving."
About this time Peter again makes his way towards us, trying mightily to balance three glasses of water and two clear, plastic bags, one filled with fried chicken and the other with rolls. I meet him halfway between the back door and the van and help offload some of the grub. Sue hops in the van and meets us around front as we walk to a picnic table on a humid, breezy night in Nashville.
"I made a point to make friend swith 'the help,'" he says. "A woman in their named Tuffy- I asked her before the show if she'd hook me up and she said she would. I told her that her name may be Tuffy but she's a softy."
"A woman named Tuffy," I say. "That sounds like a song to me."
This may not be the highlife to these two veteran performers but I'm trying not to pinch my arm in front of them. I've put two hours of highway travel between me and the struggles and troubles of my day job and I've now entered some strange cosmic space that finds me sitting across a picnic table eating fried chicken with Peter Karp and Sue Foley, talking about the successful musical partnership that has produced one of the year's best records, He Said She Said (review).
We cover a lot of ground while we eat our late dinner before the "official" interview begins. We begin with the record's unusual genesis and the long odds of it ever being made or finding the commercial success it has found.
HSSS began as a series of letters and e-mails the two artists exchanged while on the road touring in support of their respective solo albums. Those letters form the basis of the majority of the songs found on it. It's an unusual formula and not one most labels would embrace in this day and age.
Karp nods when I mention this and admits he and Foley had to do a little work convincing his label to support the idea. Once they let them hear the songs, the label saw the potential in this unusual story as something that might help sell it, even to what can be a conservative, traditional audience.