Lovett later applied those words to his music career. He strategy is to strike a balance between slow ballads and cking tunes during concerts.
That's a welcome challenge when he shares the stage with his longtime friend John Hiatt. The two have worked on an off since 1989.
Last year, they hit the road as a duo and shared stories and songs with audiences around the country.
"It really is sort of an improv from start to finish every night," Lovett said during a recent phone interview. "John is such a powerful performer."
He kept Lovett on his toes by throwing in some stray songs. Lovett tried to do the same.
When the pair came to York for a January 2011 sellout show, the weather threw in its own twist - a snowstorm that left many ticket holders stranded at home.
"It was crazy," Lovett said of the storm. "I was shocked that anyone came. It was a really nice crowd. They were happy that they got somewhere."
Just like his junior high days, Lovett pivoted and plowed on. His band, he said, has had its share of close calls getting to gigs.
Chances are that his show tonight will be snow-free. (Temperatures are predicted to be in the 90s.) This time, Lovett will bring his acoustic group - a smaller ensemble comprised of members of his large band - to the Strand Theatre.
"It gives me a chill," he said.
Even after about three decades in the music industry and 15 albums, Lovett, 54, still has his sense of wonder. That also dates back to his boyhood days spent growing up near Houston, Texas.
Big cities of Texas each have their own sounds, said Lovett. San Antonio has a mix of Hispanic and German cultures. Dallas has a strong blues scene. Country, pop and rock also filtered into the radio mix in the '60s and '70s. The state boasts some big artists including Guy Clark, Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
On his latest album with the purposefully instructive title "Release Me," Lovett blends originals and reinvents classics. It includes a cover of "White Boy Lost In The Blues."
"I learned that song in 1978," he said. "It always spoke to me. (It's) the perfect song for any suburban kid who lives in desperate fear of not being cool. My records over the years and songs that I've written. They all reflect the music I grew up listening to."
When his parents were at work, he would pore over their record collection, which included artists from Ray Charles to Ray Price. He would go with his parents to the local dance hall. They would dance.
He would listen to the bands. He was soon learning guitar and piano.
During the years, music helped him make connections. k.d. lang released her first album just before Lovett's debut in 1986. They ended up grouped together as new artists in record stores and tours.
Lovett knew he wanted lang to sing vocals the title track of "Release Me."
"She has such a respect for traditional country music and it's been a hit many times over," he said. He literally stopped his tour bus to jump out and ask her to collaborate on the song when he spotted her walking down the street outside a music festival in Canada.
She accepted on the spot, possibly out of pure shock, Lovett said with a laugh.
"I've been lucky in my recording career that I've been able to follow my own taste," Lovett said. It's hard to put his country/blues/rock into one category, but his label - Curb/Universal Music Group - didn't seem to mind. "Release Me" signals an amicable end of that relationship.
Lovett is assessing the situation to determine his next move. He said he's not sure what he'll do, but it will probably involve writing, singing and playing music. He might even think about performing again at The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles. A few years back, he played Balthasar in a production of "Much Ado About Nothing" that blended The Bard's verse with contemporary tunes.
But for now, his constant is a relentless string of tour dates. His strategy has helped him keep up with the pace.
"People look at our schedule and comment that ... it looks crazy," he said. "It's really great fun. It's like summer camp. You put the whole production together and go in and make it work and get on stage and do a show."
PopEye is a bi-weekly column focusing on the ever-changing landscape of popular culture. To reach writer Erin McCracken, call 771-2051 or send an email to email@example.com.