John Waite ain't missing the 80s at all
Are you a fan of John Waite? You should be. The former Babys and Bad English vocalist has put together an outstanding solo career over the last 30 years with hits including "Change" and "If Anybody Had a Heart," and many more.
He re-did "Missing You" -- his biggest hit -- as a duet with Alison Krauss earlier this year and it raced up the charts again. (The song has some real legs: It's been covered by other acts including Tina Turner and Brooks & Dunn.)
Waite is playing Clearwater's Ruth Eckerd Hall on Sept. 15 (along with Eddie Money and Rick Springfield). Times pop music critic Sean Daly and I had a chance to talk with John from his home in Southern California on Wednesday.
Because his best-known songs seem filled with lyrics of heartbreak and misery, we weren't sure how he'd be to interview. But John turned out to be an artist still very much in love with writing songs, playing guitar and reaching out to the roots of rock n' roll.
Here are some highlights from the interview. [Click here to hear the full interview on our podcast.]
We love your hits from the 80s. Is that an era you connect with easily?
"No, I don't at all. In fact I distance myself from it entirely. ... I really don't align myself with anything. I've had to rise above all that. The Babys -- all their biggest hits happened in the 70s. There's only a couple big hits from the 80s, and then there was Bad English..."
Yeah, for someone who doesn't like the 80s, Bad English seems like a prototypical 80s band. How did that come about?
"At the time, I was bored to death with being solo. ... I wanted to lose myself in a band. The band was such a big sound. The big sound thing -- it's not really my cup of tea. But I tried to instill inside of that very intense lyrics. It hadn't been done really. ... They were very good players and it was fun to tour. But there's no way it could have lasted more than the two albums."
Did you approach Alison Krauss on the "Missing You" project?
"Absolutely. I wasn't even sure if she was aware of who I was. But she jumped at the chance and said yes immediately. We got together and everything started from that."
You two seemed to have a lot of chemistry in the song. What was the recording session like?
"Meeting her was electric. ... The afternoon we spent getting to know each other, we tried singing it a few different ways. And the second afternoon, we just nailed it. ... It was my idea that she might start the song out because people would not expect that. I was trying to get as far away from the original as possible. Her interpretation of the lyrics was so tender."