After leaving the critically acclaimed band Del Fuegos, Warren Zanes decided to do something with his life. He went to school.

"I wanted to experience the academic exchange that only happens in college," Zanes said during a telephone interview from somewhere between Tucson and Phoenix in Arizona. "I wanted to better understand why certain aspects of art moved me."

Zanes earned two bachelor's degrees — in creative writing and art history — and then went on to get a master's in art history. While he was at it, he also earned a doctorate in cultural studies. "I wanted to make my mother proud," Zanes said in his laid-back drawl. "I wanted my mother to say, 'This is Warren, my son the doctor.' "

Then he decided to teach college and write a book. "I'm teaching at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, N.Y., and I like discussing art with students. Then this book deal came along and I wrote the book 'Dusty in Memphis.'

"I began writing the book because the Dusty Springfield album, from which the title comes, really got under my skin. I began writing it about the album but then it became much more. It became a study about the theory of American music and the role of music in American popular culture. I wrote it to find out why music of the South inspired me, since I was born in the north. And it was the perfect analogy by using the Dusty Springfield album because she was from England and made a country-western album."

While writing and teaching filled Zanes' life with stimulating thoughts and discussions, his musical demons were never exorcised. "I had been writing songs steadily throughout all my studies. So I never stopped making music. I decided to make a demo, and for some reason, it got into the hands of (producers) the Dust Brothers."

They liked what they heard and signed Zanes to their label, Ideal Records. So Zanes headed into the studio to record and co-produce a new album, "Memory Girls." The album includes appearances by Emmylou Harris and Patty Griffin. "I love being in the studio," Zanes said. "There's a lot of positive energy going around and to be with the caliber of musicians that appear on the album was a thrill."

According to Zanes, the album is a catalog of all his past relationships. "I got engaged (to singer/songwriter April March) and needed to cut off those loose ends."

He's currently on the road with the Pernice Brothers but is already looking at his future. "I've got a new book to do. I'm doing this tour and writing new songs and will be going back to teaching. I want to show that academics and music as full-time jobs can coexist. They do in my life but they could get along better."


If you go

What: Warren Zanes with the Pernice Brothers

Where: Liquid Joe's, 1249 E. 3300 South

When: 7 p.m. Monday

How much: $8

Web: www.smithstix.com


E-MAIL: scott@desnews.com