Singer • Songwriter • Cult Icon
by Paul Polycarpou
Photography by Jerry Atnip
Discovered by the Eileen Ford modeling agency when she was just seventeen, Bebe, famous for her bright blue eyes, roared through the rock-and-roll excesses of the seventies and eighties. Along the way she hung with Iggy Pop, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Jimmy Page, and Steven Tyler, with whom she had a daughter, Liv Tyler. Now living in Nashville and dedicated to her music, Bebe is still rocking with her band, the Nashville Aces. Her new singles Secret Sister and Hello Music City are out now. And no, I didn’t ask her about the Playboy spread.
Nashville Arts Magazine: What would you do with a ton of money?
Bebe Buell: I would do things with it. I’d be out there saving dolphins. I don’t like selfish people who have so much but do little to help others.
NAM: Who would you most like to meet?
BB: Oscar Wilde. I love the way he looked, the way he dressed. Albert Einstein as well. I had a crush on him.
NAM: Who would you most like to have a long conversation with?
BB: Wanda Jackson. I know she lives here, but I haven’t met her yet.
NAM: What is your most treasured possession?
BB: My Picasso block print that Mick Jagger gave me for my 21st birthday. It’s the court jester on the horse.
NAM: When are you the happiest?
BB: When I am on the lake, by the water. Animals make me happy.
NAM: Why Nashville?
BB: I have a theory about Nashville. I don’t think you choose Nashville; I think it chooses you. I love the fact that ageism is not part of the arts here. There’s no expiration date on talent. This is where I am meant to be.
NAM: What about you would most surprise people?
BB: Probably that I’m really not that liberated; I’m a little icy, even though I’ve had some elegant and delightful suitors in my life, I’m not that easy.
NAM: What do you most like about Nashville?
BB: I love that your past doesn’t mean a thing here. It’s all about how good the song is or your art. That’s what counts here.
NAM: What music do you listen to?
BB: For me it’s the Stones. I like the Flying Burrito Brothers, and I will always be a big fan of Elvis Costello.
NAM: Is there a song you can’t live without?
BB: Roy Orbison’s “Crying”.
NAM: Do you like the way Nashville is growing right now?
BB: No! It’s frightening me. The infrastructure has to catch up.
NAM: What is your greatest extravagance?
BB: What I call my maintenance: my hair, my pedicures, that kind of stuff.
NAM: What characteristics do you most like about yourself?
BB: My optimism. I try to bring as much positive energy into every situation as I can. I was born happy.
NAM: What do you like least?
BB: The part of me that worries about everybody and everything, the planet, the universe.
NAM: What physical characteristic would you change?
BB: I’m ok with what I’ve been dealt.
NAM: What’s it like being you these days?
BB: I don’t get as much sleep as I would like. My life is consumed with my band, the Nashville Aces.
NAM: What talent would you most like to have?
BB: I wish I could spend more time with my painting.
NAM: What are you most proud of?
BB: That’s easy. My beautiful daughter, Liv. She was a love child. To this day my best friend is her father (Steven Tyler). I’m proud of my own survival instincts.
NAM: What is your greatest regret?
I regret that I did not have more children. But I’m at peace with it now. I wish that I had understood my identity a little better when I was a younger girl.
NAM: What visual artists do you like?
BB: I will always be a Picasso fan. I love his childlike quality. I really like New York artist Paul Kostabi, Mark’s younger brother. And I love Beth Hooker.
For more information about Bebe Buell, visit www.bebebuell.org.