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Nick Lowe on Buenos Aires, the window seat, and drinking like a local

Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets at Shepherds Bush Empire.Simon Jay Price/Photographer: Simon Jay Price

British singer-songwriter, musician, and producer Nick Lowe has been in the music business for more than five decades, but at 73, he isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. The prolific songwriter has penned such hits as “Cruel to Be Kind,” and “(What’s so Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding,” a 1979 chart-topper for longtime friend and fellow musician Elvis Costello. Lowe and his band Los Straitjackets are opening for Costello and his band, the Imposters, on a tour that stops at Leader Bank Pavilion on Aug. 15. “We’re going to do plenty of tunes that people know — especially fans of Elvis’s — and we’ve also got some pretty good ones we’ve been doing while me and the Straitjackets have been together,” said Lowe, who was born in Walton-on-Thames in Surrey, England, but said he grew up mostly on military bases in Jordan and Cyprus. The former member of the pop/new wave band Rockpile (which included Dave Edmunds), said he hopes to catch a Red Sox game while in Boston. “Eddie Angel, the lead guitarist for [Los] Straitjackets, has been trying to persuade me to go to one with him,” he said in a recent phone call from England. “I really don’t understand baseball. I’m not too familiar with it.” We caught up with Lowe, who lives in Brentford, England, with his wife, Peta Waddington, their 17-year-old son, Roy, a drummer, and their 9-year-old Whippet, Larry, to talk about all things travel.

Favorite vacation destination?


I think it’s Italy. That’s where we go most of the time nowadays. My wife went to Florence with her sister when she was quite young to get a job and learn Italian. The pair of them came back to UK a couple of years later speaking fluent Italian, which makes my job so much easier when going on holiday there. We mostly go to Florence because she’s got lots of friends there and knows her way around. Can’t get away from tourists in Florence cause [it’s a] small city. She knows a few people off tourist track. We also like Punta Ala on the coast [in Tuscany].

Favorite food or drink while vacationing?


My dear old dad, long deceased now, and who was in the Royal Air Force his whole career, gave me one piece of advice: He said, “Son, whatever you do in life, always drink what the locals drink.” So don’t have a pint of Guinness in Tokyo, and in Italy, you should really drink the wine. Favorite food? Well, I love the baked fish at Da Bruno [in Castiglione della Pescaia]. He’s got a baked fish dish — and it could be any kind of fish, depending what was caught that day — and it’s made in a Tuscan style. It’s generally sea bass.

Where would you like to travel to but haven’t?

I’d love to go to Buenos Aires. I’ve never been to South America and I think I’d like it quite a lot. Really, I’ve just never been invited. One of the great things about being a musician is that you go to places you never thought about going. Lots of my contemporaries have been, and they all love it.

One item you can’t leave home without when traveling?

My guitar, usually. I’d be in trouble if I didn’t [bring it]. But I would say a pack of cards. I love playing solitaire. … it’s almost like meditation. If there’s a delay at the airport or anywhere else, really, I’m [OK] if I have a pack of cards. So a pack of cards is an essential travel accessory. Bicycle and Bee are my favorite [brands]. They have a very distinct design and an astonishingly long life.


Aisle or window?

This is an easy one: Aisle for domestic or short haul, window for long haul. I suppose on long haul, I generally sleep nowadays, and you don’t get sort of jogged by the drink cart so much if you’re by the window. And there’s something about the window seat that is a little bit more secluded.

Favorite childhood travel memory?

My father was a pilot with the Royal Air Force and we were stationed at an RAF base in Amman in Jordan. My dad would load me and my mum into a twin-engine aircraft and I would sit up front with him while my mom sat in the passenger section of the plane. It was amazing flying across the desert and the Dead Sea. One day my dad, suddenly to my alarm, got out of the pilot seat and went out back to sit with my mum, leaving me alone in the cockpit. I didn’t know at the time that he had put it on automatic pilot. Once I realized it, I went back to join my folks. I remember just sitting there with them, looking out the window while the plane flew itself. It was like a dream.


Guilty pleasure when traveling?

McVities Ginger Nuts biscuits.

Best travel tip?

When calculating when to leave for the airport in order to make your flight, take three opinions of how long the taxi ride will be. Select the longest and add half again. Do the same with time needed to check in and clear security. Add both totals together plus one hour.