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Tuned in: Longtime friends Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen take stage together

Robert Earl Keen doesn’t like to have too much time on his hands.

After battling the flu for a week, he’s back on his feet and getting ready for his coming tour with Lyle Lovett.

“I played the guitar yesterday,” he says with a laugh. “I took some time off after the holidays, because I played shows during that time. I’ve also gone quail hunting. It’s been busy.”

Keen and Lovett have a history that goes back 40 years.

The two Texas songwriters met in 1976 at Texas A&M and began a friendship based on music.

“At first, we used to hang out and talk about girls,” Keen says. “We’d also talk about music and what we wanted to do with our career.”

Fast-forward four decades, and the pair have both carved out niches for themselves – Lovett in country music and movies, Keen as a mainstay in Americana.

The friends will hit the road for about a monthlong tour, which will stop in Albuquerque on Feb. 16.

Keen says the idea for the tour began a few years ago when Lovett called him up and invited him on tour.

“I had some downtime, and he asked if I wanted to go out on tour with him and trade off songs,” he says. “It’s been a really good idea. Lyle also does tours like this with John Hiatt and Vince Gill.”

Keen says the show is laid-back and includes many stories from their past.

“Because we’re friends, it works,” he says. “We’re both total hams, and when we go out on stage, we’re there to perform. We strive to be entertaining. We chat a little about our friendship and what it was like growing up in the music industry.”

Keen hasn’t released a record since 2015’s “Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions.”

Although there’s been some time in between, the 62-year-old musician is ready for a new project.

In fact, he’s taken notice that music has gotten shorter and consumers aren’t really purchasing albums anymore.

“My project started off as a joke,” he says. “It’s called ‘Snapchat Songs,’ where I write a 90-second song. It’s a verse and a chorus. It’s really quick and has taken some getting used to. I’m from the generation that made albums. I keep saying this album is a joke, but I could pull it off. The music works with just a guitar, and I can put 20-plus songs on the album. It’s a whimsical idea that I think will stick.”

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