A short conversation with Lyle Lovett -- The country singer discusses his new album and a role in ??The Player??

Backstage at the Paramount Theatre in Austin, Tex., Lyle Lovett is a little rushed. ”I’ve got a show to do in 30 minutes and I’m talking to you on the phone,” he says. ”And I’ve got to take a shower.”

At least Lovett found time to make Joshua Judges Ruth, the first album he’s recorded in L.A. — or anywhere outside Nashville. And MCA Records has moved him from its country label in Nashville to its pop label in L.A. ”I’m being marketed by a whole ‘nother company, essentially,” says Lovett, noting that his fans aren’t the traditional country audience. ”So they’re marketing this record to the audience that’s been buying my records all along.”

Still, public exposure sometimes makes Lovett anxious. Introducing Johnny Cash in January at the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony made him ”more nervous than anything I’ve ever done in my life”; in 1989 he was so surprised to win a Grammy for Best Country Male Vocal Performance that he dropped his statuette on stage, breaking it in two.

Lovett is cagey about his acting debut in the new Robert Altman film, The Player, though details are readily available. ”I play a mysterious guy who kills bugs” is all he chooses to confirm. Is there a love in his life? He laughs. ”That’s a secret too.”

One last challenge: Can he describe himself in 10 words or less? Lovett hems and haws. ”I’m a guy who needs a shave and a shower.”