I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time: Jonathan Cain. In addition to having written or co-written more than 100 songs for Journey, he has penned numerous hits for The Babys and Bad English, while also maintaining a prolific career as a solo artist. In other words, the quantity, and most importantly, the quality of Jonathan Cain’s musical output is astounding.
This summer Journey is on the road with the Steve Miller Band and the Tower of Power, performing for sold-out crowds across North America. I saw them live in Holmdel, NJ and I plan on seeing them again this year. Check out the tour dates on the band’s official website to see when they’re in your area. The current lineup puts on a phenomenal show that shouldn’t be missed.
I recently had the honor of interviewing one of the greatest guitarists in the history of rock, Don Felder. For 27 years he was a member of one of the most influential and popular rock groups of all time, the Eagles. During his tenure with the band, Felder wrote the music for “Hotel California” and applied his signature sound to countless hits, including “Victim of Love,” “One of These Nights” and “New Kid in Town.”
I recently had the opportunity to interview the incredibly talented John Oates, one half of the 2014 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees Hall & Oates. In addition to having a stellar career with Daryl Hall, John has created a strong catalog of music as a solo artist. On March 18th, he’s releasing three five-track EPs – Route 1, Route 2 and Route 3 – as part of his latest music project entitled Good Road to Follow. You can learn more about this on the official John Oates website.
Below is my interview with John and two behind-the-scenes videos about Good Road to Follow. Enjoy!
Congratulations on being a 2014 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee. You and Daryl were first eligible for induction in 1997, yet you weren’t nominated until now. Hall & Oates came in as one of the top five acts that people wanted inducted in the official Rock & Roll Hall of Fame fan poll. How does it feel to receive this honor from both the public and your peers?
To me it’s like a lifetime achievement award. I’m happy that the fans and public were finally allowed to vote and I’m sure that had a lot to do with us getting admitted.
The 2014 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee list is a diverse one. In addition to yourselves, there’s KISS, Nirvana and Peter Gabriel, just to name a few. Are you fans of these artists and are you looking forward to performing with them on stage at the end of the ceremony on April 10?
I am honored to be part of this particular “class.” All of these artists have unique and qualified talent and all are deserving to be in the Hall of Fame. As to performing, I have no idea of what or who will be involved.
Speaking of performances, I attended your concert at the Tower Theater in October 2013. As always, it was excellent, and you performed one of my favorite songs, “Las Vegas Turnaround” from the Abandoned Luncheonette album. You mentioned writing the song while sitting on the step of your apartment on Quince Street in Philadelphia, which is right around the corner from where I live. What was the inspiration for this song and how did it come together?
Two young ladies were walking by and they stopped to talk. One of them told me they were flight attendants – “airline stewardesses” – and were about to do a “Las Vegas Turnaround.” When I asked what that was they told me it was a quick trip from Philly to Vegas, then right back again. I had never heard that expression and it seemed like a great title. I wrote the song around the idea of flying. “Gambling fools to the holy land Las Vegas.”
I’ve always had a soft spot for many of the Hall & Oates tracks where you sang lead, especially “Mano a Mano,” “Possession Obsession” and “Keep on Pushin’ Love.” When working on an album together, how do you and Daryl decide who should handle the lead vocal?
Some songs just work better for Daryl’s voice and his sound has become the trademark of our biggest hits, so when I wrote certain songs like “Maneater” or “Out of Touch” it seemed like the best thing to do was have him sing it.
What is the songwriting process like for you? Do you sit down and say, “I’m going to write a song,” or does inspiration strike and you start taking notes?
The rules are: “No rules.” Anything from the most mundane to the most profound can be the fuel for inspiration. The difference between songwriters and others is that songwriters are always somehow tuned into the world, situations, emotions, and experiences that other people may not be aware of. Then it’s down to the ability to articulate those things both musically and lyrically into a song that people can relate to and that touches their souls or makes them want to shake their booty, or maybe both.
Whether it’s your work with Daryl Hall or your solo albums, you clearly have a diverse taste in music. Which albums or artists have influenced you the most over the years?
I was lucky to be a kid at the birth of rock and roll, but I was also aware of the music that came before me, the big bands, jazz, etc. My first guitar and lyric hero was Chuck Berry. Elvis was well…Elvis. The traditional american folk and blues artists were very important to me as well: Mississippi John Hurt, Doc Watson, Blind Blake, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Jim and Jesse, as well as the newer folk interpreters like Dave Van Ronk and Joan Baez. My tastes extended to the historical performer like John Jacob Nile. Then 60s R&B was very important: Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions, The Stax/Volt recordings with Booker T and the MGs, Motown, and of course, East Coast doo-wop and Philly soul.
Your first solo album, Phunk Shui, is a terrific collection of pop, rock and soul music. One of the songs on the album, “Love in a Dangerous Time,” was re-recorded for the Hall & Oates album Do It for Love. What’s the story behind this song and do you prefer one version over the other?
I wrote that song with Arthur Baker and Tom Farragur. It was about a changing world as I saw it…AIDS, violence and turmoil. I prefer my solo version because the music is more ominous and less pop.
You followed up Phunk Shui with 1,000 Miles of Life, a rock album with country undertones, and Mississippi Mile, a stripped-down bluesy affair. What inspires you to shift direction from album to album?
I don’t see it as a shift. I see it as an evolution and the maturation of me as a solo artist. 1,000 Miles of Life was my first album that I recorded in Nashville and I wanted to take advantage of all the amazing musicians. Also, the songs were very introspective and I knew that their playing style and sensitivity to lyrics would bring out the best in these particular types of songs. Mississippi Mile was more of an “homage” to the music that I loved as a kid and re-working some of my old favorites into my personal style. That album was basically recorded live in the studio, also in Nashville.
Your most recent musical endeavor is called Good Road to Follow. As part of this project, you released five musically diverse singles in 2013, and in 2014 you have a trilogy of EPs coming out. What should fans expect from the EPs?
It will be released on March 18th as a package with three discs. Each disc has five songs assembled based on style as best I could. Since the project began as a series of singles there was no thought about flow and style. I just wrote the best songs I could with a wide variety of collaborators, both as writers and producers. The discs are entitled: Route 1, Route 2 and Route 3.
What made you want to take this unique approach to releasing music?
I have been moving beyond the concept of an album in the traditional sense. The world has accelerated and listeners’ desire to create personal playlists seems to be setting the standard. However, after hearing a bunch of my digital singles there was a lot of demand for an album, so I had to figure out a way to assemble all this diverse music. I did the best I could and all three EPs are the result.
So far, my favorite song from Good Road to Follow is “High Maintenance.” It’s easily the best pop song I’ve heard in quite some time. With this single, as well as the others, you’ve collaborated with a variety of artists. What has it been like working with such a diverse group of musicians on this ambitious project?
I am proud of all the songs on Good Road to Follow. It’s just different flavors. Everyone who worked on this project did it for the love of the music and I was blessed to be able to share this musical experience with all of them. In a way, I had to be kind of an artistic “traffic cop” since I was the only one who knew what the entire body of work sounded like. So, I had to be careful to keep the sonic landscape somewhat coherent but at the same time allow the people I was working with freedom to bring their own creativity to the project. It has been an amazing experience and I can’t wait for people to hear it.
40 years ago today – February 18, 1974 – KISS released its first studio album. 40 years later, hundreds of albums have been sold, thousands of concerts have been played and the band is about to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Happy 40th anniversary, KISS!
2013 was my first full year of blogging, and it was a great one. I wrote 174 posts and exceeded 20,000 views, reaching people in 118 countries. I also had the honor and privilege of interviewing some of my favorite authors, actors and musicians, including:
Rod Stewart was the first concert I ever attended, and on December 11 I saw him live for the fourth time. As always, he put on a terrific show. While not quite as powerful as it was back in the 1990s, Rod’s voice still sounds great and he knows how to wrap himself around a song and convey emotion like very few singers do. He also jumped, danced and kicked soccer balls around the stage – dressed in dapper attire, of course – with such energy and enthusiasm that it’s hard to believe Rod’s almost 69.
Steve Winwood opened the show with an unremarkable set list that included only two hit songs: “Gimme Some Lovin'” and “Higher Love.” He didn’t perform “Valerie,” “Back in the High Life Again,” “While You See a Chance,” “Roll With It,” or “The Finer Things.” When you’re an opening act, you have to knock people’s socks off and give them what they want. Winwood did neither. Yes, he’s a great musician and performed well, but there was much left to be desired.
Thankfully, Rod knows how to work a crowd and please his fans. He kicked off the show with two upbeat hits and rolled into classic material, including deep cuts like “Sweet Little Rock & Roller” and “I’d Rather Go Blind.” Rod also highlighted his new album, Time, with two great tracks: “Can’t Stop Me Now” and “Brighton Beach.” He also brought out his daughter, Ruby, to sing a song on her own, “Just One More Day,” and one with him, “Forever Young.” However, the highlight of the show was Rod singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” while backed by an orchestral ensemble, with snow falling down from the ceiling.
If you have a chance to see Rod Stewart live, go. He’s an iconic singer that still puts on an excellent show that won’t leave you disappointed. He had the crowd on its feet and kept everyone dancing and singing along from start to finish. He wasn’t inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice (once as a solo artist and the second time as lead singer of the Faces) by accident; Rod was honored two times because of his spectacular body of work and legendary live performances. Do yourself a favor and buy a ticket next time he’s in town. You’ll have a blast.
Below is the set list from the show and four videos I shot. Enjoy!
“This Old Heart Of Mine”
“Having a Party”
“You Wear It Well”
“Stay With Me”
“Tonight’s The Night”
“Some Guys Have All the Luck”
“Rhythm of My Heart”
“Just One More Day” (sung by Ruby Stewart)
“Forever Young” (sung with Ruby Stewart)
“The First Cut Is the Deepest”
“Have I Told You Lately”
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
“Can’t Stop Me Now”
“Sweet Little Rock & Roller”
“I’d Rather Go Blind”
“Proud Mary” (sung by Rod Stewart’s backup singers)
KISS has recorded 36 records over the past 40 years and sold nearly 100 million albums worldwide. They are one of the most iconic bands in the world, both for their music and merchandising, and they have finally been nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But that doesn’t mean they’re in. Just like the fans – the KISS Army – helped bring the band to the forefront of popular culture, we now have the opportunity to vote KISS into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Below is more information and the link to where you can vote. Do your part to make sure KISS is finally recognized for its stellar career and inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is offering fans the opportunity to officially participate in the induction selection process. The public has the opportunity to vote for the five nominees they believe to be most deserving of induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The top five artists, as selected by the public, will comprise a “fans’ ballot” that will be tallied along with the other ballots to choose the 2014 inductees, who will be announced soon.