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John Hiatt: A Rocker Who Keeps on Rolling

John Hiatt has a new CD up his sleeve.
John Hiatt has a new CD up his sleeve.
John Hiatt and his guitar recently visited NPR's Studio 4A.
John Hiatt and his guitar recently visited NPR's Studio 4A.

Singer-songwriter John Hiatt has played in bar bands, backup bands and fronted his own groups. His songs turn into hits for other performers, while his own recordings rarely stay on the charts. But his club and concert followers are legion. And this summer, he released his 21st album, called Master of Disaster.

When his tour bus reached Washington, D.C., Hiatt dropped by NPR's Studio 4A for a conversation with Liane Hansen, guitar in tow.

His first album came out in 1974. Over the years, he's rolled through through musical genres, from rock and pop to a fusion that calls on some country and a bit of the blues.

With the musical evolution came a rich collection of compositions. The artists who have covered a John Hiatt song make up quite a list: Bonnie Raitt, Iggy Pop, Conway Twitty, Three Dog Night, B.B. King and Eric Clapton, to name but a few.

He seems to have enjoyed the ride. Ten years ago he told Rolling Stone "I've got my best stuff in front of me rather than behind me. It's a nice feeling."

Now Hiatt is 53, and he's even farther along a road that began in a coffee house in his hometown of Indianapolis. But he's not done touring, he's not done making music and he's still looking ahead.

Though his music is far from overproduced, his latest CD was recorded on a direct stream digital system at Ardent Studios in Memphis, breaking a bit of technological ground. The system creates music that is better for MP3 downloads, which are grabbing an ever-larger share of the music market.

Jesse Baker produced this feature.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Liane Hansen
Liane Hansen has been the host of NPR's award-winning Weekend Edition Sunday for 20 years. She brings to her position an extensive background in broadcast journalism, including work as a radio producer, reporter, and on-air host at both the local and national level. The program has covered such breaking news stories as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the deaths of Princess Diana and John F. Kennedy, Jr., and the Columbia shuttle tragedy. In 2004, Liane was granted an exclusive interview with former weapons inspector David Kay prior to his report on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The show also won the James Beard award for best radio program on food for a report on SPAM.