Talking Tucson and Family Calexico’s Joey Burns prepares to return home with Iron & Wine

Calexico and Iron & Wine are touring in support of their collaboration album, “Years to Burn.” (Photo by Piper Ferguson)

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Joey Burns’ 8-year-old daughters are quickly learning about the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.

He recently took them to Manhattan to see “Wicked” when his Tucson-based band, Calexico, performed with Iron & Wine in the city. They saw “Wicked” and the girls smiled and waved to everyone.

“They love the openness of what it’s all about,” Burns says with a laugh. “They stayed up all night. One of my daughters came up to me at midnight. She said, ‘I can’t go to sleep, dad. I’m just too wired from the night.’ The only thing I could say was, ‘you and me both.’”

Calexico and Iron & Wine are playing closer to home this month: Friday, August 16, at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix and Saturday, August 17, at The Rialto Theatre.

Burns says it’s nice to return to Arizona, where he doesn’t hear the obvious questions from fans.

“Being from Arizona — depending upon what’s happening in the news locally and globally — I get some interesting questions about immigration, the border, local politics and personalities,” he says.

“I feel good being from Arizona. I’m not born and raised here, but I’ve been living here since 1993 full time.”

Calexico and Iron & Wine recently released the full-length album “Years to Burn,” their first collaboration since 2005’s “In the Reins.”

“The spirit of collaboration has so many possibilities,” he says. “Sam Beam (of Iron & Wine) is a really talented singer-songwriter/producer. He did all the artwork on the newest album as well as the early release.

“The collaboration is great. I wanted to do a follow-up collaboration that not only involved recording, but carving out a big chunk of time for touring.”

Burns got his wish. Previously, the two bands added horse-themed cover songs to their setlists. Burns has an idea for this summer’s tour.

“For this tour, I think we’re going to dive into ’80s cover material,” he says. “I know there’s already talk of an Echo and the Bunnymen song.”

Naturally, it’s “Bring on the Dancing Horses.”

“We can do a really good version,” he says with a laugh. “I’m asking people online to help me out with other songs. I think, at one point, Sam said ‘Horse with No Name.’ We could totally do that. We have the harmonies. I can see us in Italy, sitting around in 90-degree weather, with no A/C, coming up with a simmering version of that. It works in all climates.”

Burns spent most of the spring and summer at home with his family, before heading overseas in advance of the U.S. jaunt. He was excited about spending time with the kids, eating popsicles and watching the U.S. women’s soccer team win. He predicted that the day they won the worlds.

“I just love everything about them—their personalities, what they represent, how they’re role models to everybody, including me and my family and my girls,” Burns says.

“The first thing I’m going to do when I pick up the girls from summer camp today is have lunch and watch the soccer game. I respect that they’re honest with who they are and their feelings. Megan (Rapinoe) was thrusted into the news because of some (bad) comments from the person in the Oval Office. That’s just disrespectful. He’s created an air of disrespect. I’m looking forward to getting a woman in the Oval Office.”

If there’s anyone who knows that, it’s him, he says.

“I’m being totally honest,” Burns continues. “I’m in a house of women. I realize the shortcomings that men have to offer. We need more balance in the workplace, balance across the board and everywhere.”

Burns and Calexico have mired themselves in southern Arizona politics, thanks to their friendship with Phoenix promoter Charlie Levy. He introduced Burns to former State Rep. Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly, a Democratic candidate for U.S. senate running against Martha McSally.

“Gabby has converted Mark into listening to Calexico, whether he wanted to initially or not,” Burns says. “I see him at the airport or the house and he’ll say, ‘How come you don’t play this song or that song?’ Alright Mark, you’re going deep into the catalog.”

On a serious note, he admires Giffords and Kelly.

“She’s very strong,” he says. “She always has been and always will be. I’m happy to see the progress she and a lot of others are making. Being in my early 50s and a father and a musician, I not only see the importance of getting involved in whatever way and capacity I can, I feel it. Our way is through music. Music is a way of healing, inspiring and bringing people together.” 

more info

What: Calexico and Iron & Wine w/Madison Cunningham

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, August 17

Where: The Rialto Theatre,

318 E. Congress Street

Cost: $39-$56

Info: 740-1000,