JOHN WAITE: UNPLUGGED Q&A
Sept, 2017: Rock Cellar Magazine, Ken Sharp
One would be hard-pressed to come up with a vocalist that sprung out of the ‘70s or ‘80s that is better than ever in 2017.
John Waite is one of those rare artists possessing a voice of extraordinary power and emotion that, by some miraculous twist of fate and God-given gift, has somehow managed to have gotten stronger over time. That commanding vocal prowess is displayed on his new release, Wooden Heart: Acoustic Anthology Volume Two; also out at the same time is a newly reconfigured version of his greatest hits album, BEST. We sat down with John, who shared the story behind his acoustic-flavored artistic endeavors, how to circumnavigate changes in the music industry and what legendary artist he wished he could have watched record in the studio.
Rock Cellar: With Wooden Heart: Acoustic Anthology Volume Two, can you explain the appeal of cutting songs with primarily acoustic instrumentation?
John Waite: I was distracted by the past. My roots are all in acoustic music; everything that moved me came from the acoustic guitar–cowboy music, really. If it stands up unplugged, it’s going be solid when you “plug in.” We play a lot of Wooden Heart shows. They are packed so I think people really get it! The band is mainly about volume and soul so we still feel good about that. Two worlds, one band!
How do these songs come alive and reveal themselves in an acoustic format, as opposed to an electric forum?
John Waite: Well, “Isn’t It Time” seemed like the most impossible thing to pull off because it’s such a big production. The things that moved me the most about the last record with Shane (Fontayne) was “A Heart Needs A Home,” the Richard Thompson song. It was the most stark. On this new album, we actually managed to do a pretty great version of “Isn’t It Time” with just one vocal and one guitar. That really surprised me.
I was singing in a way that I didn’t expect to sing, and I was phrasing in a way which was completely new to me to make it fit and to balance the song. Of all the songs on the record, that the one that I look at and go, “How did I do that?” But all the songs come alive when you take out the backing track.
A song is only as good as it is when it’s sung on an acoustic guitar. Once you add the drums it becomes something else. I always find when something is stripped down to its barest parts you can tell what you’ve got, especially with the singing.
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