After seven years as the namesake of the acclaimed college rock band Grant Lee Buffalo, Grant-Lee Phillips is now three albums into a solo career, and his latest, Virginia Creeper, is once again chock-full of literate folk rock that has fans singing along with the chorus -- even if they don't quite catch all the references. One of Creeper's five titles that appropriate feminine proper nouns, "Calamity Jane," has attracted a particular misconception.
"The song has nothing to do with Jane Fonda," Phillips says. "I don't know where that one came from. One journalist kind of looks at whatever the last one wrote, and then it becomes like Chinese whispers.
"The song has more to do with George W. and his posse, more to do with that swaggering, gun-toting American attitude that frequently gets us into a lot of trouble. I guess it's a hard thing, though, to throw that at an inquisitive listener -- the idea that a song with a feminine character could in some way personify a macho idea."
June will see the California-based Phillips share both band and stage on a co-headlining tour with former X man John Doe.
"Somehow, by the end of the evening," he says, "we'll all be tangled up in each other's guitar chords and tangled up in our blues."
But what about all those other songs on Creeper? What about songs like "Susanna Little," "Mona Lisa," and "Josephine of the Swamps"?
"I guess I'm following in the footsteps of troubadours before me," Phillips jokes, "and singing about girls is what you do."