Right in the middle of Laurel and Hardy the phone rang.
"Sara Hickman. Sara Hickman," the voice on the phone said.
"She ain't here," I said.
"I know that," the voice said. "This is Joel from Elektra. Sara Hickman, she's beautiful. You'll love her. How 'bout an interview? She's beautiful. She's opening for Eric Johnson in Santa Barbara on April 9."
"Swell. I'll make reservations for dinner," I said.
"Wrong. She's in Dallas," he said.
"A phoner?" I said.
"I'll send you a bio and a CD--here's her phone number," he said.
A day later, the bio and the CD arrived. Hickman's bio is an oversized copy of a 1968 Topps baseball card. Not surprisingly, her new album is called "Shortstop." She's got a great voice; she sings about the Big Issues; sometimes it's sort of folky, other times she sort of rocks out; she'll be opening for Texas guitar god Eric Johnson at the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara.
Our conversation went like this:
You have the prettiest face I've ever seen on a baseball card.
Well, thank you. I had to clean myself up--I just got back from a game.
Are you really a baseball fan?
I love baseball. Baseball is great. My album is called "Shortstop." Although I'm not home enough to play on a regular team, when I do play, I'm the shortstop or the left fielder.
How 'bout those Rangers?
How 'bout 'em?
How 'bout those Astros?
Astros. Smastros. Actually, I'm for the team nobody likes. I'm an Atlanta Braves fan. When I was a kid, I used to go visit my grandparents in Georgia and I'd listen to their games all summer. I actually went to see them play once three years ago. Naturally, they lost. They were terrible.
Your music is quite different than Eric Johnson. How did this tour come about?
Well, in some ways our music is similar. He's just somebody I really respect. I can hardly wait to meet him. The tour is going to last five weeks, beginning in Seattle. I'm really happy about all this, very happy. I've got money in the bank. I'm enjoying all this. I'm not in this for fame--fame is fleeting. I'll just enjoy it while it lasts.
How did you get started in the music biz?
I started playing when I was 7. I wrote a song about a bald eagle and won first place in a school pageant. Then I started entering a lot of talent shows, and I won those too. Then later, I had a very good teacher that helped me get onto local television. I've been doing this for a long time.
What's it like being a female musician?
It's like being a black person in a white world. I'm a musician first and a woman second. It's 1991--let's get real.
What would be your dream or nightmare gig?
I've already had my dream gig--I got to sing with George Burns. Also, it would be great to do a duet with Harry Connick Jr. and maybe Barry White--come here, baby. My nightmare gig would to be stuck on the road with Guns 'N' Roses. That wouldn't work at all.
What was your strangest gig?
Well, I played with this guy named Rusty Weir one time, and I'd never heard of him. So I called a friend and they said he was a folk artist, so I thought it would be fine. When I got there, I was wearing these blue and white cowboy boots and, well, I looked sort of like a Southern starry, starry night. Anyway, the crowd was nothing but this sea of black hats. . . . I thought I was gonna get lynched.
What's the most misunderstood thing about Sara Hickman and her music?
Where do I start? Well, I hate it when people make a big deal about me being a woman musician. This woman thing is too much. I've been doing this since I was 7.
What's the worst advice you've ever heard?
My dad told me that it was OK to embellish the truth. He also gave me my best advice when he said, "Do you think that's the last $2,000 you'll ever have?" My mom wanted to me to buy her a car with this money I had, so I did.
Describe your music.
It's intelligent, interesting and funny. Oh, and sensitive. Also, it makes you feel darn good.
Is J. Geils right--does love stink?
No. I'm in love right now. I fell in love over the weekend. I went bowling and fell down and sprained both of my ankles. He fed me grilled cheese sandwiches while I was lying there.
Can music change the world?
Yes. I think people in the arts have a responsibility to make the world a better place.
Those metal dudes have lots of groupies--do you have guy groupies?
Yeah, it's really cute. I get lots of flowers. On my last tour, I got some Salvador Dali books. I enjoy talking to people after the shows. One song I do, "Aurora," about stroke victims, seems to touch a lot of people. I celebrate the qualities that make human beings special. They pay me to have fun.
* WHERE AND WHEN
Sara Hickman and Eric Johnson on Tuesday at the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara, 963-4408, 8 p.m. Tickets $16 or $17.