Waite’s anticipated new release Rough and Tumble follows 2007’s Downtown…Journey of Heart and shows a new and fresh side of the British singer/songwriter’s creative output.
Part of the album was recorded in Nashville.
The record wrapped with a spirited studio session in Los Angeles with the members of his touring band. Waite says of Rough & Tumble: "As much as I feel the release of the live album, In Real Time, last May was a defining moment and as much as I have enjoyed playing those songs, I consider this album a new beginning.
I approached this project with an entirely different ambition musically than I’ve had in the past. It’s the first record I’ve made that I think is made up of singles. All 12 tracks are contenders. They’re all alive in their own way. I’m not really sure what the energy is behind the songs, but there is a real kind of velocity in the album where we just picked up speed and kept going. We just wanted to play and win.” A good portion of Rough & Tumble was written and produced in a sweet pocket of creativity enjoyed over the past year and a half with Matchbox Twenty lead guitarist/songwriter Kyle Cook, who Waite met through a mutual friend. "It’s pretty much extraordinary,” Waite says about the material he created for the new album. "It’s not like what people would expect from me. It’s a step to the left. There’s a rock imprint on the music and a melodic presence, but it’s just shifted gears. It’s an extreme record. It has an identity and a philosophy of its own, which is really fresh for me.” The Waite/Cook collaboration has proved to be nothing short of phenomenal, as evidenced by songs like "Evil” (a thumping rocker-meets-dance-club tour de force), "Better Off Gone” (a hook-laced better-off-on-the-open-road anthem), the deep groove-laden "Love’s Goin’ Out of Style” and the soaring magic ballad "If You Ever Get Lonely”. "I’m not saying it’s high art, but genuinely speaking, it’s fantastic for me,” Waite says, reflecting on his new music. "I certainly am interested in spending the rest of my life doing something creative rather than just living in the past”. On Rough & Tumble, Waite also managed to keep the rougher live rock edge that shines through on In Real Time alive and well. The no-holds-barred, riff-ready title track and the driving renditions of "Sweet Rhode Island Red” (a Tina Turner number) and "Mr. Wonderful” (a new take on a hidden gem originally included on his debut solo album, Ignition) are set to shake heads during the next tour. The melodies of the amazing "Shadows of Love” are yet another highlight of Waite’s new superbly varied and interesting musical statement
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JOHN WAITE ROUGH & TUMBLE
John tells about the album, how it came to be the majestic masterpiece it is !!
ROUGH & TUMBLE
"Rough & Tumble” was the first thing we cut for the album of the songs that were recorded in Los Angeles. I hadbrought the band together for a quick rehearsal in Santa Monica. We had a rough blueprint of the songs we were going to be recording from some pretty raw demos.
The band was tuning up, and Luis played this great blues lick.
Five minutes later, we had the basis of "Rough And Tumble.” Bang! There it was! It was all done "on the fly.”
It felt like it really set the tone for the recording the next day. It sounds like the live album (In Real Time). It's the sound I hear in my head when I go in the studio. Live and raw!
I based the song on an idea that a friend once told me. He was in the Russian Tea Room in New York with Keith Richards taking a leak, and Keith leaned and said, "All we've got to do is stick together and everything is gonna be OK.” I carried that around with me for a couple of weeks thinking about it because it was such good news –such a good thing to say.
Getting through the world if you're in love with somebody is like a precious thing. The world is going to throw stuff at you, and you gotta get through it somehow. You've got to stick together. "Rough & Tumble,” even though it's open for interpretation, is really about surviving the stuff that life throws at you.
SHADOWS OF LOVE
"Shadows of Love” was written in Brooklyn quite a while ago when I was just writing songs not knowing where my career would take me next. I thought maybe I'd just be a songwriter.
I found out pretty much in those days that I couldn't really write for other people. I needed to write for myself, or I wasn't interested.
This song had been a bootleg in Europe for a long time, and the record company over there had heard it. Serafino Perugino, the head of Frontiers Records, loved it, and I kept it in the back of my mind.
I thought we could do an arrangement on this song that would bring it up to date. There is a song by New Order, the Manchester band, where the whole band stops and this guitar lick comes in at the top of this gate and it's like the hook of the song, and I thought, well, if we try something like that, we might bring it into this decade. The band pulled out all the stops and surprisingly enough, the thing morphed into this more modern piece of rock, which says a lot about melody. You can't keep a good song down. It worked.
Nobody was more surprised than me.
"Evil” was written around the time that Michael Jackson passed away. Kyle Cook and I were sitting there in his writing room out in the country just playing the guitars. I played this bass lick, and he played like this Stones‐y kind of thing, and the whole thing took off.
It sort of happened in spurts, and it took three days to get it.
The rap in the middle was completely spontaneous. There was a small Fender amp, and we were recording on the same mic. Kyle would stick the mic in front of the amp and play his guitar. Then I'd take the same mic and sing some more lines into the song on it. In the end, he turned to me laughing and said, "It's a one‐stop shop!”
What you hear on the record is the demo.
We tried taking it in the studio and re‐recording it, but we just couldn't capture the magic we had managed to get down on tape in Kyle's writing room. It was what it was. It was great the first time around.
IF YOU EVER GET LONELY
"If You Ever Get Lonely” is about getting a phone call at night…perhaps the love of your life that you sort of lost track of dials you by mistake or maybe she's out at a party and after a bottle of wine thinks she'll just say hello. It's one of those things where you pick up the phone and you stop breathing. It's about distance. It's about livesgoing on after they've been damaged.
"Skyward” was written about six years ago in L.A., and I had forgotten all about it. The original idea for this new release was to make a five‐song EP, but in early October, I got the phone call that the record company would like to have a complete album, so I was trying to fish around for songs that I might be able to record.
I was looking off into space in Santa Monica wondering what the hell I was going to do when the phone rang. Jamie Houston, who I wrote "Skyward” with, was on the other end of the line, and he said that someone wanted to record the song.
I had forgotten all about it, but when Jamie brought it up, I had this vague recollection of the song. It started off as "Skyway” –a song about a girl who had a deep drug problem…"there's a skyway in your eyes,” you know?
It was deep, but we turned it around into a happier thing, and it became "Skyward,” a song about walking on air. The original demo was very pop, but when we went in to record the song for the record, we just turned the band loose on it.
We treated it more as a rock song, and it just exploded. It was one of those things that I didn't expect to happen. Just at the right time, it walked into my life. Again.
SWEET RHODE ISLAND RED
"Sweet Rhode Island Red” is a song I've wanted to cut since I was about 24. I heard it for the first time over at my brother's house. He had a live album of Ike and Tina Turner called What You See Is What You Get and it was just stormin'. I mean, I remember us just lying there on the floor playing that album a lot, especially through one Christmas.
I'd go over there just to hear it. That song killed me. When I learned there was a need to cut more songs for the album, it was the first thing I thought about cutting. I thought if there was ever a time to try to cut something like this, the time is now.
Tina wrote the song by herself. It shows you the profound talent that she has. Not only could she blaze through those songs and put her heart out in front of all those people that she sung to, but she could also write stuff like that.
It just knocked me out. I think the track turned out great.
The band really went for it. Tim Hogan plays some great machine gun bass throughout the song. One of my favorites on the album. Besides, my mum likes it!
LOVE'S GOIN' OUT OF STYLE
"Love's Goin' Out of Style” was the second song I wrote with Kyle Cook. After we finished "Better Off Gone,” Icalled him up and told him we need to be singing to grooves and asked if he could put one together. I went over the next day and he had put this thing together…a bluesy, bouncing kind of groove that went into a chorus.
We're in the one‐stop shop, you know, so I told him to give me the mic. I sang the entire first verse right into the top of the first chorus…"I've got the keys to the highway since you said goodbye”…and all of it came out.
Kyle was really impressed, and so was I. I just didn't expect that. We went back and re‐thought it and sang different stuff into the track but it was very spontaneous.
Kyle and I started to realize while working on this song that we could actuallywrite something together that was really going to be stunning.
We started with "Better Off Gone,” followed that up with this one, and then we wrote "Evil,” so it was a very prolific period.
BETTER OFF GONE
"Better Off Gone” was the first thing that Kyle Cook and I wrote. We met at a writing room in Nashville down on Music Row. A mutual friend of ours from Indiana had been saying for years that we should get together and write.
He thought we would be great together. I finally agreed so we met up to try to knock around some ideas. We sat there on the couch sort of trying to get to know each other. It was kind of this nervous "Hey, how you doin' man?”…"Great”…TWANG (sound of guitar chord)…"Hey, look at the weather, it's really sunny” …”Yeah, great man”…TWANG.
And in the end, we just had these chords about driving. In my head, I was thinking about "24 Hours From Tulsa,” which is a Gene Pitney song –this great American highway song about just leaving. It's about a white Lincoln Continental. There's one I keep seeing. It's such a beautiful car. It sort of inspired the basis for the lyric.
FURTHER THE SKY
That's a Gabe Dixon song. Beautiful song. Alison Krauss suggested it. I asked Alison if she had any songs sitting around that would be good for me that she could think of, like something by the Louvin Brothers or an obscure country song, and then I made my mind up not to go in any way acoustic, but this was something that she felt strongly about.
The version that we heard was played on an electric piano. We took several stabs at cutting it. I rose the key from F to F sharp thinking that it would make it spikier, but it didn't. It fell completely.
We cut it again the next day with the original arrangement still in a higher key and that didn't work either. In fact, when Alison listened down to it, she said it sounded like jazz and suggested I call Shane Fontayne, an old friend of mine.
We've made a lot of music together. It just so happens Shane lived down the street from the studio where we were recording. I sent him a copy of the song from You Tube of Gabe playing the song during a live show at Grimey's in Nashville.
I was talking to Shane about why we were having trouble with it, and he told me there were a lot of 7 chords in it, and that it felt a little bit high to him, so we decided to put it back in the key of F.
Shane slept on it for a couple of days and came in and just played this beautiful guitar part to get us into the top of the song.
By this time, we had Rodger Carter on drums and Tim Hogan from my band came back to play bass. It was a three‐piece band, and they played it completely live. It shows you how great Shane is, you know?
We would have probably left that one alone, but we ended up taking the song somewhere else.
PEACE OF MIND
"Peace of Mind” is based on Herman Hesse's Steppenwolf. At the time I wrote this, I was trying to find a new way of writing songs –making them almost psychedelic but without being trippy. This was a story about a man going into a theatre in New York and the world turning inside out. All of these people who have influenced me are in there –Charlie Chaplin, Johnny Cash, Charles Baudelaire. It's about a night at the opera –about opening the gate and going through into a different reality.
There's also a monologue over the top, which I haven't heard anybody do yet. It was a real trip. I wrote that with Mark Spiro. It still surprises me.
"Mr. Wonderful” was written in New York with Ivan Kral. He had just left Iggy Pop, and we had started to write songs for what was going to turn into my first solo album. A lot of it is Ivan. It's got a very cabaret feel…based loosely on pre‐World War II Germany.
It was meant to be about estrangement and living on the outside of things.
It's also sort of paranoid.
"Hanging Tree” was written with Shane Fontayne. That song had been on a few bootlegs around Europe, and I'd
always thought maybe it would be a great bonus track for a record. When Shane came in to play on "Further The
Sky,” I thought it would be great to do a song with him, and we had this one just sitting there. It's a Zen cowboy
song about reincarnation, which is even more odd if you go back to 1875 and think about people leaving this world
and coming back in as different people then. It's a song about a guy who's an outlaw being tracked down and
lynched. At the moment he's lynched, he comes back into the world again.
Rough and Tumble video Trailer
John Waite talks about the genesis of The Babys, the masterpiece that was missing on the early "No Brakes album 1984 '' that was writen in an instant called: Missing You. But also about Jonathan Cain, Ricky Phillips, Dean Castronovo: the supergroup Bad English. And then getting back to the stripped down rock sound of the band in which he is now with Tim Hogan, Luis maldonado and Bill Wilkes. A track by track account for the songs in his own words for Rough and Tumble. A awesome insight in the world of John Waite and the sincerity and integrity he has as a true artist that lives for his music