LACY J. DALTON “Summerland” Video Premiere – with Web-Exclusive Interview


Musician:  LACY J. DALTON


Video Feature:  SUMMERLAND






Lacy J. Dalton’s blonde spiky hair is an extension of the singer-songwriter’s professional and theological peregrination, every lock representative of crossroads, intersections and a path not obscured by superficial desires. With piercing eyes and a throaty voice, Italian film director Sergio Leone would have cast Dalton as an intellectually redeeming femme fatale, alongside Clint Eastwood’s “Man with No Name” alter-ego in his 1960s Spaghetti Westerns. In the flesh and metaphysically, Dalton celebrates and continues the American outlaw’s birthright, with life-revealing philosophic song lyrics, more powerful than bullets propelled through John Moses Browning’s Peacemaker.

“Dream Baby” Jill Lynne Byrem’s Childhood In Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania

Jill Lynne Byrem was born after the carnage and terror of World War II evaporated like a waking nightmare. Military aircraft, former symbols of death and destruction, now dissolving into prefabricated houses and luxurious, large chrome-plated fin and fender cars offering eternal domestic bliss. Sunday the 13th, was both prophetic and perfectly scripted for the little girl’s birthday, setting the stage for her life journey. Growing up in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, Dalton strolls down memory lane with vivid reflections, “My music actually came from growing up with parents who played country music. My dad played all the string instruments, my mother played guitar and sang harmony, and my sister played piano. They all played music and I listened. I always listened.”

“She Could Run” Santa Cruz In The Summer Of 1967

Working the county fair in Pennsylvania was one of many odd jobs and side hustles that Dalton endured before securing a recording contract. Recounting her tenure at the rustic pageants, she elaborates with enthusiasm about harness races and farm animals. Dalton presents a tableau of the county carnival, “I worked for ‘Big Joe’ this guy from Philadelphia. I’d work all week selling jewelry and then you would get $100. You’d be on your feet under the concrete floor of the grandstand. I remember my feet burning.” Across the way, Dalton spotted a rock ’n’ roll guitar player selling psychedelic posters. They hit it off and fell in love. Motivated by a desire to see what the flower children were all about, resulted in Dalton eloping with the mystery man. She ended up in a hippie commune in Santa Cruz, California, and stayed there. At the time Dalton was turning 21. It was a huge turning point in her life to venture blindly into the unknown.

Like a goodwill ambassador, Dalton runs a commercial for Santa Cruz, encapsulating her creative relationship with the community and musical style, “It’s an incredible town, there’s a music school there, and there’s a ton of really fabulous musicians around there. The Doobie Brothers are around there, Neil Young was around there, and all those folks. The Byrds were not far away, and San Francisco was within an hour’s drive. And I became part of that. My music is not specifically country music. It has elements of folk and rock, and I was even in a psychedelic rock ’n’ roll band at that time and wrote a lot of the songs for it. I always wrote from the very beginning. I just started writing from the very beginning because I didn’t know how to play anybody else’s songs. So I wrote my own and that became my passion.” Listening to Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and a lot of the West Coast bands like Janis Joplin, New Riders of the Purple Sage, and The Jefferson Airplane, influenced Dalton’s music in a very different way than the music of her childhood. The county fair girl from Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania had strayed from the flock.

In the flesh and metaphysically, Dalton celebrates and continues the American outlaw’s birthright, with life-revealing philosophic song lyrics, more powerful than bullets propelled through John Moses Browning’s Peacemaker.

“Listen To The Wind” Brigham Young University Blues

Wanting to pursue a career as a wildlife illustrator brought Dalton to the campus of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, but a guitar along for the ride as a kind of companion changed her trajectory. With the capability to sink a ship and flying gear to perform Peter Pan, the theater arts department captured her interest and occupied her imagination, and Dalton entertained the idea of an arts education there. A specter of the higher learning institution’s religious leader looms large at BYU, and Dalton was alone a lot there trying to find a path in life that ignited her flames of passion. One Christmas, as snow poured like confectioners’ sugar from shakers planted firmly at heaven’s table, Dalton didn’t have the funds to go home and was one of the few people on the campus during the winter holiday break.

As most college students work part-time jobs to reap the financial rewards of church mice, Dalton cleaned the bathrooms in the theater arts department, providing her with access to the whole stage. One morning, while performing her duties, she noticed someone had left a microphone on, right in the middle of the stage, and remembers getting up on that stage and singing to that big beautiful auditorium with her guitar. Dalton recalls, “I thought I love this. It was very magickal, and it just kind of evolved and became more of a calling for me. I never had that urge to be a star and wear all the sparkly clothes, but I kind of went through a phase like that.” Music ignited that spark for Dalton, and she subsequently decided to pursue a career in the music industry, a non-traditional vocational path one may travel, reminiscent of Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken.”

“Working Class Woman” Waitress In The Santa Cruz Mountains

The dreaded 9 to 5 day job grind is a benign and lackluster euphemism that artists must explore until they can find their audience or their audience finds them. Dalton is intimately acquainted with this painful but creativity-yielding process, and had many day jobs before making it—including being a waitress, which shaped her songwriting and taught her life lessons that she still takes with her today. Offering perspicacious insight, Dalton allows observers to slip into her shoes and blues, “They always gave me the most difficult customers, ones that were always impossible to get along with. I started early working in a rather fancy hotel in Bloomsburg, where I grew up, and there was a wonderful German woman there who taught us how to wait tables in a most professional way. Really, I could have worked in any restaurant in the world probably at that time, because of her training. She was very strict, and I got to thank her about 40 years later. I never got my record deal until I was 33 years old, but I didn’t want to do any complicated work. The nice thing about the waitress job is you get to take money home every day.”

This aspect of Dalton’s life echoes Ellen Burstyn’s character in the 1974 romantic comedy movie Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Part of that time, Dalton was a single mother because she had been widowed when she was about 27. Dalton’s husband suffered a bad accident and was totally paralyzed from the neck down. He did get a small veteran’s pension, and that helped her out but she also had to work. Embracing both economic realities and artistic aspirations, Dalton labored at a place in the Santa Cruz mountains, where she would cook all day. Then at about 6 or 7 o’clock at night, she would take off the apron, don a guitar, and sing. She made a little money doing that at little clubs around the Santa Cruz mountains, and that became sort of a second home for Dalton with a very wonderful extended family, with whom she’s still very close.

Musicians Care During “Hard Times”

Circling back to connections with Santa Cruz, Dalton speaks about the moral fiber of her surrogate family of musicians in that community, “Right now, we’re doing a fabulous benefit for some of the artists in Santa Cruz, who have come upon hard times. There have been artists there for probably 40 years who didn’t have big savings, and both a husband and a wife have cancer and they can’t work. There’s a fabulous community of musicians there, and I always joke and say, there are more musicians in Santa Cruz than there are people. The University of Santa Cruz is there, a school called Cabrillo, which we used to call a junior college, and they have a fabulous music program. There are just all kinds of wonderful musicians who live there and 12 acts are going to do this benefit for us on January 28, 2024. There are 38 singers-songwriters who are going to be involved, and we’re going to play from 3 o’clock in the afternoon until the cows come home. We’re going to raise some money for these wonderful artists, and I didn’t have one person say no to a free performance—out of 38 people! These are the cream of the crop of that area. I’m very proud to be doing this. That’s the wonderful thing about musicians.”

Dalton adds, “Musicians are very spiritual people, and songwriters, not all, but many of them. The best songwriters talk about really deep feelings, and very intimate things, and are very vulnerable because they have to keep their hearts open to receive the music. I think it comes to us from spirit. But also to put it down in a way that moves people. All of the musicians, who played for 40 to 50 years in that town, and a lot of the younger people, are doing it at a place called Moe’s Alley. It’s a very wonderful, intimate club where I love to play. It’s one of my favorite places to play because it’s very warm and homey. A lot of times, it’s standing room only because it’s not big, but it’s where we like to go to play music, and people like to go to hear music. We’re going to have a wonderful time.” Dalton is doing the benefit for Jimmy Jackson and Ellen O’Hanlon.

“I’ll Love Them Whatever They Are,” Dichotomy In Genres Between Male And Female Artists

Many women didn’t get to open for artists like Hank Williams, Jr., shining a light on the dichotomy in genres between male and female artists, but Dalton was immune because of her self-described weird influences from the West Coast and other music that she played. Dalton elaborates, “People are very concerned with gender. I don’t care what gender anybody is, I just don’t care. I don’t think about it much myself. I was fine as an outlaw artist and I think more than anything that was why I got to do it. Tanya Tucker and Emmylou Harris did get to open for the likes of Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, and so on.” What called Dalton back to country music were Waylon and Willie and the Boys, outlaw music out of Texas, incredible songs by groups like The Highwaymen that talked about reincarnation, and “Pancho and Lefty,” an incredible outlaw adventure of two desperadoes. This music beckoned Dalton, back to her roots. With tongue in cheek, she confesses, “The only thing I ever heard in Pennsylvania besides country music was Perry Como.”

Indian Tom’s Intervention With A “Slow Movin’ Outlaw,” Duet With Willie Nelson

Collaborating with Willie Nelson on “Slow Movin’ Outlaw,” for his 1985 album of duets Half Nelson, Dalton was the only female voice present on an opus dominated by male performers. Dalton shares the tale behind the recording session, “I had a wonderful friend in Texas whose name is ‘Indian Tom,’ a very intelligent and well-educated Indian man and he ran the drug program for the state of Texas for years and years. He’s done other jobs negotiating big contracts between the state and other entities and stuff like that. He happened to be very good friends with me and good friends also with Willie’s sister. He’s very good friends with the writer of ‘Slow Movin’ Outlaw’ Dee Moeller, who is this incredible, wonderful woman.” Moeller had written that song for Willie years before, and Willie had just finished an album. Because he was finished with the project, ‘Slow Movin’ Outlaw’ was not recorded at that time. Years later, Dalton was talking to ‘Indian Tom,’ and Tom said he had a song for her, suggesting with urgency that Dalton do it with Willie. Although Dalton played with Willie, they were not intimate buddies, and she didn’t feel comfortable asking him if he would record the song with her. ‘Indian Tom’ told Dalton not to worry about it and he took the song to Willie’s sister, who loved the song and she took it to Willie, recommending that he do it with Dalton as a duet—while Nelson happened to be in the middle of making his duet album Half Nelson, with the likes of Neil Young, George Jones, Ray Charles, and Leon Russell. Dalton underscores the intervention of ‘Indian Tom,’ as just basically magick, along with Dee Moeller, “These are very special people, they are just magickal people and a magickal thing happened.” Dalton received a gold record years ago, and more recently received a platinum record for her efforts. For Dalton, the song is a wonderful memory, just as wonderful today as it was when she recorded it way back then.

“Are There Any Cowboys Left,” American Outlaws in the 21st Century

“Slow Movin; Outlaw” possesses a cinematic quality that romanticizes the ideal of the American outlaw, a tragic figure that can’t seem to find his or her place. Dalton ponders the American outlaw’s ability to survive in the online virtual world of the 21st century, “I don’t know if the others can but I’m having a pretty hard time with it. It’s especially wonderful if you’re an independent artist to have a tremendous presence on the internet. I don’t really know how to do that, but my son is far on the edge of Google glasses technology. He’s a programmer. He got that from his father, not me. From me, he can draw. I think there will always be what I call the black sheep.”

Dalton’s new project is called For the Black Sheep. She has written five songs for the project but only recorded one, and has a lot of work ahead of her to get it ready for April 1, 2024. The album explores the thematic element of outlaws. One of the songs has a line in it, if you feel like you’re an outlaw and kind of lost touch with your faith, or any kind of spirituality just remember Willie Nelson’s album, right there on the sleeve. Don’t forget the saying outlaws do believe.

A lot of the songs in the project are directed toward real outlaws. Dalton worked for three and a half years in one of the most notorious prisons in the United States, High Desert State Prison in Susanville, California, and taught songwriting there. Along with her partner Dale Poune, she started a program under the auspices of The William James Foundation, a songwriting and music program in that prison. It was very successful and is still going. Poune has been implementing the program for 9 years, and it has incredible rehabilitative effects on the prisoners.

The first song Dalton wrote For the Black Sheep was actually written for those outlaws she and Poune had been working with, 20 years to life prisoners. All those years working in a correctional facility, Dalton never had one moment of fear, “Those people appreciated us being there so much, I knew that nothing could ever happen to us, because they would have protected us with their lives. I am certain, and was never stressed at that prison.”

Dalton emphasizes the prison’s sterility and layers of security, calling to mind Dante’s “Inferno” with its levels of Hell, “You have to be searched every day, you go through an entry gate where there are two gates. You go past that, then you go down to whatever building you work, and then through another entry gate. They’re all metal sensitive and you don’t want to take certain things in there. Then you pass through another gate, and get into the place where you actually go to work. Of course, everything is locked and you have to be constantly locking doors behind you. None of that was any bother at all because of the joy of these men learning how to play guitar and write songs.”

Writing a whole full-length musical, and performing it for the warden and his guests, was a crowning achievement for Dalton. The warden was so pleased with the work of Dalton and Poune that he gave the ensemble awards. Dalton was very sad to leave that but wanted to get back to some of the writing that she was doing. One of the first songs that she wrote is a song called “Jesus Was an Outlaw After All.” Dalton contextualizes faith for outlaws; marginalized individuals, sometimes viewed through a negative lens by society, “Don’t be afraid to approach that, don’t be afraid to embrace your spirituality, however you find it. If it’s not Jesus, it could be Buddha. However you find your way, however that spirituality finds a way into your life, that’s going to make your life so different, and so much better. You’ll be so much stronger.”

“Beer Drinkin’ Song,” Take This Job and Shove It

Dalton worked with Art Carney, best known as Ed Norton, on the classic television sitcom The Honeymooners, on the 1981 comedy film Take This Job and Shove It. The movie’s premise is built on a failing brewery that turns itself around financially only to be put on the auction block for an oil millionaire. Art imitated life when the Johnny Paycheck song of the same title that inspired the movie became part of the miners’ strike in West Virginia. Paycheck actually stood with the striking miners.

Lacy had a little part in that movie and remembers being nervous. To date, she hasn’t even watched the completed film, but did have a couple songs in it, and was very grateful for the opportunity. Dalton recalls fondly, “That was a good movie, and they could probably redo that movie and it would be a hit right now, with all the unions striking and people asking for a fairer shake in the enormous amount of money that multinational corporations accrue. I really wish that some of the oligarchs in this world, people who have billions and billions of dollars, knew that they really didn’t need all that, but a lot of other people do. People like Warren Buffett, and a group of people with him that are giving back. A lot of the corporations have charities and they give what seems like enormous amounts of money but compared to what they’re making, it’s a pittance in many cases. I’m sure one billion will last you just fine, you don’t need 80.”

Offering her views on disparity in wealth, and possible solutions, Dalton points out, “There are 356 million people on this planet, little kids, who are starving to death. There are as many people starving to death as there are in this country. It’s appalling. I think there really are more people on this earth than need to be right now. There are way too many of us, and that’s just how it is. But I do think this earth is also a very abundant thing if we treat her properly. I think she could feed all of us easily but it has a lot to do with governments and political things. Right now, I think we’re at kind of a turning point. So many people simply do not believe that global warming is even happening. Educated people who should know better don’t believe it. It would be so wonderful to see some of these hugely wealthy people really do something about kids starving and kids needing medical care, in countries where they’re born with deformities and cleft lips, and aren’t able to walk because of crippling starvation. I wish that the heart of the world would beat larger, and beat in those people, and that this planet could come into a greater spiritual consciousness. Until we do, I don’t think up there in the galactic federation they’re going to let us in.”

“Slip Away” and Don’t Tell

“Slip Away,” a song from Dalton’s 2004 release The Last Wild Place Anthology, was placed in the 2005 motion picture Don’t Tell, starring Alison Eastwood. Providing the backstory, Dalton fills in the blanks of the song’s genesis, “I had this lover named Willard, and we were an item for five or six years. He was a guitar player in my band, and we wrote a lot of songs together—and we were a thing. He suddenly got it into his hard-charging little head that he was going to run off with an intravenous drug-using prostitute. He had fallen madly in love, so off he went.” A few weeks after he left, Dalton got a call at three o’clock in the morning from Willard pleading with her to hear this song. Dalton wasn’t interested in the song and told Willard she hated him. Eventually, she agreed to hear the song, loved it, and recorded it. Every year of his life until the end of his life, Willard would call Dalton, asking her to marry him, sweetening the offer with the promise of a horse and a life of leisure. Dalton remained friends with Willard, reconciling the relationship’s romantic end, with the words, you made your choice. “Slip Away” was written by John Fitzgerald and Larry Hosford for Dalton, who was wonderfully surprised when it was used for the Don’t Tell soundtrack.

Black Sheep in “Summerland”

Dalton describes the song “Summerland” as the red herring of For the Black Sheep because it’s not representative of the material on the album. Dalton’s mother was dying of cancer, and she didn’t want her to be afraid. Dalton reveals both the creative process and her faith-based beliefs, “That song came to me. It was one of those songs that comes to you very quickly and you just simply write it down. I knew that when I was finished with it, it would be a song that could bring hope to people. I know a lot of people become closed off spiritually because they think that when we die, we go away, we’re gone forever. I don’t really believe that or that we just come here one time. I believe that this is a school where we come lifetime after lifetime to learn how to walk our talk, how to be authentic, how to be the best spirit that we can be before we actually get to hang out constantly with that which is the great spirit.”

Taking a deep dive introspective approach, Dalton navigates her faith, “We call ourselves Christian, but we don’t walk that talk. We are judging. There are a lot of people who simply hate gay people. If you’re Christian, and you’re doing that, you’re not doing the first thing that Christ taught which was love God with all your heart, mind and spirit, love yourself, and love your neighbor as yourself. That is the whole of the law, and all the other laws in life are based upon it. That’s what (Christ) came to teach, and that’s what the project For the Black Sheep is all about. I don’t know if other people have had this experience, but the churches that I went to turned me off to spirituality. They did not turn me on to it. They probably would now because I stopped being so judgmental. I used to see so much hypocrisy in the churches. The wealthy people sat in the front and poorer people sat in the back. As a child, I was very aware of all of that and I thought—this isn’t right. This isn’t what they’re saying they do. They’re not walking their talk. I think it’s so important somehow, however you manage to do it. Don’t say something, if you don’t intend to do it. Walk that talk. All you have at the end of a lifetime is your integrity, your word, that’s all you have left. You can’t take anything with you. You can’t take any stuff.”

With For the Black Sheep, Dalton is reaching out to those people who have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. She offers commentary on churches that do not lead their congregations to spirituality, “The churches are losing arterial blood because what’s happening is it’s become a social thing. It’s become a political thing. And that is not what it’s about. What it’s about—is loving God with all your heart, mind and spirit. Love yourself is the hard part. Love your neighbor as yourself, and that’s the whole of the law. That’s it. That’s what we’re here to learn to do, and it’s not easy. Loving yourself isn’t even easy. We have that critical belief in our heads all the time—saying you’re not good enough, or you’re less than, or whatever your little devils in there say. We need to listen to a higher voice, a higher power. Ask ourselves a better question, and that’s what For the Black Sheep is all about. It’s about not throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

Studying many religions and taking many catechisms, Dalton was always looking for something real and authentic that she could believe, and found it, but took the long way around the block, “I went to Brigham Young University, and when I was finished with all that, I began to become interested in what eastern religions were saying. In the time we don’t know about him (Jesus), because there are only 97 pages in the Bible devoted to Jesus’ life. They don’t really know where he went. In the Himalayas, the monks in the Tibetan monasteries have records of a man there named Yeshua, who came to study with them. How I came back around to believing that person (Jesus Christ) was exactly who he said—he was not from my churches, or anything I learned from my churches. But it was from listening to these people from an entirely different belief.” There was so much in the bathwater that was hypocritical, that Dalton had to go far away from it, to regain her faith-based beliefs, “I was a black sheep, so I’m writing this music for the black sheep.”

“You Can’t Run Away From Your Heart,” Let ’em Run Foundation

Wild horses are the natural extension of the American outlaw and the Old West, and occupy a place in Dalton’s heart. She elucidates the framework and goals of the Let ’em Run Foundation, which seeks to rehabilitate wild horses, “We’ve been doing that since somewhere around 2003, and we got our charitable donation certificate—so that we can raise money for the wild horses. We’ve been doing it for a long time. We’re not a huge organization but I like to do several benefits a year, and we like to raise money for the boots on the ground people, the people who really do the bulk of the rescuing, rehabilitation and rehoming of our wild horses—so they don’t end up going for slaughter in Canada or Mexico. A lot of them are going to Mexico now. The slaughter down there, some of the things I’ve seen, you don’t even want to know.”

Raising and giving money to mom-and-pop groups that really don’t have the time or energy due to the gentling work they’re doing with these wild horses, and getting them ready for adoption, is the thrust of Dalton’s foundation. Big organizations have their own funding, ways of getting grants. They have lawyers who specialize in trying to legislate laws for the wild horses. But a lot of the actual rescue, adoption, rehabilitation and rehoming work is expensive—even to run the trailers with the horses in them from the auctions where you get them to where you’re rehabilitating them. Vet bills are huge and the horses are required to have a vet check and Coggins shot, which will keep them from spreading disease from state to state.

Painting a tear-jerking picture of animal rescue, Dalton depicts helicopters rounding up the horses, which sometimes results in breaking their legs during the process. Dalton believes there are gentler ways to gather wild horses—one of which is closing off all the waterholes, and putting a big corral around the main waterhole. When the horses are in there drinking, the gate is closed. That’s how the old Mustangers used to do it in Nevada, where there are more wild horses than any other state.

Let ’em Run Foundation tries to help the little guy. Although equipped with a website, Dalton isn’t very active on it, but does two or three fundraisers a year. She makes sure that money is going to the people who actually are doing the work, “We have a tiny overhead for administrative costs. Ours is like 6%, whereas others are 30% to 40%. All the money that people send goes to the horses. You can actually see where the money goes. We have to declare that every year. It was always my opinion that it should be a conduit. We don’t keep money, we keep passing it through to the people who are really underfunded, and don’t have the time to raise money themselves. That’s our goal and the way we operate.”

“Everybody Makes Mistakes”

Going into the music business not knowing anything, Dalton, a self-taught musician and writer, admits to making every mistake you could possibly make. The advice she shares with anyone who wants to pursue music as a career is “With the availability of inexpensive recording at home, or with someone you know, you can do some pretty wonderful recording. If you’re writing and doing your own music, I would make those recordings, and make yourself CDs, and sell them at your shows. I think music education is always a good thing to have. There are schools like Belmont in Nashville that can actually teach you the music business.”

Recalling John Prine’s successful business model to empower artists, Dalton expounds, “John Prine did something wonderful, when he was starting—he would put this little piece of paper in the middle of each table and it read, if you want to hear my next record, please put your information on this card. And when I write a new record, I will tell you, and if you want it, I will send you a copy. He put out 100,000 of those cards and he never ever needed a record company. And when he was selling enough records, the record companies came to him. He already knew the process. He knew how to make the record, how to reach his people. He knew everything about it. He educated himself that way, and that is what I tell people to do. If you go to Nashville and knock on doors, and you’re not a model and you don’t have $150,000—good luck.”

Dalton shares a cautionary tale about her manager who was approached by someone seeking representation, but he turned down the artist. The artist was Lyle Lovett. Dalton told her manager that he probably just made a big mistake but it didn’t hurt him. He went on to manage other very big stars. At the time, Lovett had a song called “God Will,” which is a really strong song for a man, but it’s a much stronger song for a woman—about forgiveness. Dalton sings part of the song, as she reflects on the story, adding she knew it would be a number one song for her, but Lovett’s publisher was smart and saved it for Lyle himself to start his career with it. She respected that and has always respected Lyle’s music ever since, adding “He stays fabulous forever.”

— by Rodeo Marie Hanson

Fans and new fans can get more info and stay updated at:

comment closed

Copyright © 2024 M Music & Musicians Magazine ·