Tuned In to Chris Isaak
Our featured Tuned In artist this week is Chris Isaak. His body of work speaks for itself. From attaining top 10 hit songs, to acting in major motion picture films; he has become an iconic pop culture figure. Despite this, he has remained true to his artistic integrity, and very much "down to earth".
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His current release entitled "Mr. Lucky" is an example of his dedication to his craft of making good music. It has received critical acclaim by the music industry. We caught up with him at The Keswick Theatre, in Glenside, PA www.keswicktheater.com. Chris will be returning to the Keswick on July 14.
He showed us just how "down to earth" he is. He treated us to a good time with a great interview, and even made up a special "Tuned In jingle" for us prior to the show. He then went on to put on a great performance to a sold out crowd who made him welcomed there.
Here is his biography
"Shallow men believe in luck."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Everything in life is luck"
* * *
Getting Lucky has rarely sounded so good.
Mr. Lucky -- Chris Isaak's stunning new masterpiece -- perfectly balances the ecstasy of great romance with the agony of pure heartbreak. Mr. Lucky offers passionate music that feels decidedly lived-in. Like some rocking Sinatra album for the 21st Century, Mr. Lucky is a song cycle about the good luck we earn and the bad luck we just can't seem to shake. Right from its killer opener -- the wonderfully tortured "Cheaters Town" -- to the concluding and uplifting "Big, Wide Wonderful World," Isaak takes us all on a dark but beautiful ride -- one you will likely recognize as your own.
"For better or for worse, the songs on this album do reflect where I am at in my life right now in one way or another," Isaak confesses. "I couldn't define where that is exactly, but suffice to say when I hear these songs, they all make sense to me. The truth is I do put a lot of myself into my music. If people out there listening feel that it's me in these songs, that means I'm probably doing my job. At the same time, I believe that anyone who's ever fallen in love -- or out of love -- should be able to hear themselves in this album too."
Throughout his impressive recording career -- right from his stunning 1985 debut to this latest stellar effort -- Chris Isaak has tunefully and artfully explored the good, the bad and the ugly of love, as well as other matters of profound human interest. He has done so with an abiding respect for popular music's past, but at the same time with clear and vital passion for the here and now.
Yet for all the heartbreak evident on Mr. Lucky -- and yes, Virginia, there is a lot of blood on these particular tracks -- make no mistake, Chris Isaak considers himself to be a very fortunate man indeed. "When I call this album Mr. Lucky -- or sing a song titled `Big Wide Wonderful World' -- my tongue is nowhere near my cheek," Isaak explains. "The truth is that anyone who gets to do what I do for a living should be saying `Thank you' on a daily basis. For all the pains and the pleasures of life, this is a wonderful world and I understand that I really am one of the luckier guys on earth."
Like some of Isaak's best known past compositions, such as his international breakthrough smash "Wicked Game," "Baby Did A Bad, Bad Thing" and "Somebody's Crying," the songs on Mr. Lucky have a deeply felt sense of the consequences of good love gone bad, and bad love gone good. Standout tracks on Mr. Lucky include the opening "Cheaters Town," his intimate travelogue of heartache, the tormented yet transcendent "We Let Her Down" -- the first single from the new album -- and "You Don't Cry Like I Do," a searing song of love and loss that reaches the operatic heights of Roy Orbison, one of Isaak's greatest heroes and a kind man who generously made the effort to help Isaak out on his way up.
On the other hand, there's also tremendous optimism and hope and love here, on songs like, "Best I Ever Had" and "We've Got Tomorrow," on which he sings, "A simple plan is all we'll do/You count on me/I count on you."
Those words offer a lesson that cuts very close to home for Isaak. For all the epic romance that he learned through the music of his heroes like Orbison, Elvis Presley and Ricky Nelson, his own most lasting lesson in how love should work came from his own parents who've been married for sixty years now. As Isaak recalls, I asked my mother for the secret, and she said, `Don't leave.' Recently, I noticed my father's wedding band and asked him why he got such a thin one. He said, `Well, it wasn't thin when I put it on.' That teaches you something about love and what really lasts in this world."
As for any impression from the album that "Mr. Lucky" has himself been unlucky in love, Isaak pauses for a second then adds, "Honestly, I've been pretty lucky in love. I've met wonderful women, and I like to think I'm friends with all of them today. In the end, most of the heartache that I've experienced, I've brought on myself. When you live on a bus and travel from town to town making music, it's not exactly a great way to set down roots."
Perhaps so, but when the result is music like Chris Isaak's Mr. Lucky, it works out just fine for the rest of us.
From the beginning, Chris Isaak has earned his good luck the hard way -- by consistently delivering excellent work, both onstage and in the studio on a series of accomplished albums from Silvertone (1985), Chris Isaak (1986), Heart Shaped World (1989), San Francisco Day (1993), Forever Blue (1995), the largely acoustic Baja Sessions (1996), Speak of the Devil (1998), Always Got Tonight (2002), the seasonal-themed Christmas, the Best of Chris Isaak compilation (2006) and now 2009's Mr. Lucky.
In between all those album and tours, Isaak has also used his famously sly, self-deprecating wit and matinee idol looks to enjoy a whole second life onscreen. He has appeared in numerous films including Jonathan Demme's Married To The Mob (1988), David Lynch's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1988), Bernado Bertolucci's Little Buddha, Jonathan Demme's Academy Award-winning Silence Of The Lambs (1991), Tom Hanks' rock & roll movie That Thing You Do! (1996) and John Waters' A Dirty Shame (2004). And in addition to high profile guest parts on a special Super Bowl episode of Friends and the Emmy-winning HBO miniseries From The Earth To The Moon, Isaak starred in his own acclaimed Showtime musical comedy series The Chris Isaak Show from 2001-2004 -- an inspired vehicle that expertly showcased many of his considerable talents as a comedian and musician.
"I've had a blast, and been paid to try and act," Isaak admits. "I say `try' because anyone who has ever seen me act knows I'm no actor. Still, I'm thankful for the opportunities. In truth, the first thing I ever considered being was a filmmaker, but I couldn't even imagine how you could ever get paid to do that, but I figured if you got a band together you just might be able to get someone to pay you to play a gig. It's all worked because music is my real passion."
Most recently, Isaak has also started hosting The Chris Isaak Hour, a brand new music interview series on the Biography Channel that debuts in February 2009 and has already found Isaak interviewing and making music with a wide range of distinguished artists, including Stevie Nicks, Michael Buble, Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) and Trisha Yearwood. "Frankly, it's the only way I could get some of these people to talk to me and even play with me," Isaak explains with a grin. Though Isaak confesses that he can be very happy just surfing or drawing during his down time (he did all the art for the new album), at heart, he is still that same kid from Stockton, California who grew up decidedly working class -- and to this day he has the outstanding work ethic to show for it.
As Isaak recalls, "Someone once asked Buck Owens how he wanted people to remember him and Buck said, `That I was a hard worker.' I loved Buck even more for saying that, and I try to live up to that idea with every album and every show. Every night, we try to do a great show for people because we know they may have hired a babysitter and driven a hundred miles just to see us. We take that responsibility seriously, even if we don't take ourselves too seriously. But as much fun as we have, we take pride in trying to live up to the respect people show us."
That same sort of dedication and passion for the work he is fortunate to have is evident throughout Mr. Lucky, for which Isaak took a strong hand in production along with gifted producers Eric Rosse (Tori Amos, Sarah Bareilles, Lisa Marie Presley) along with John Shanks (Sheryl Crow, Michelle Branch and Rod Stewart) and longtime mixer and collaborator Mark Needham (The Killers, Fleetwood Mac). The album also features a few notable musical guest stars, including Trisha Yearwood -- who proves to be an extraordinary duet performer with Isaak on the intense yet luminous rendition of "Breaking Away," Isaak's excellent composition with famed songwriter Diane Warren -- and Michelle Branch with whom he shares a lovely harmonic convergence on "I Lose My Heart" and "Baby, Baby."
For Chris Isaak, his latest effort doesn't represent any radical departure but rather a reaffirmation of his passion for the music he makes and the life that he leads. "I'm not a great believer in hard lefts or hard rights, or trying to reinvent yourself. I didn't get into this business to try and be who somebody else thinks I should be. Most of my favorite artists were people who knew who they were, and then let you know too with their music.
So what exactly is it that makes Isaak feel like such a lucky guy? "Well, first, I'm blessed that I've got a great family that's still healthy and here. We recently had Christmas together and it was still my mom, my dad, my brothers -- in other words, the original cast that was played in all those original episodes that I know and love."
"Then, there's the fact that I get to work with and make music with an incredible group of people -- my band, my management, the crew," says Isaak. For instance, I've been together with most of the guys in the band for 25 years now, and I still look forward to playing with them every night -- and even sharing the bus with them on the way to the next gig. Then to make things even better, when we play, wonderful people turn up to see us -- it's like having a hometown wherever we go."
"I have my dream job, and I'm still working," Isaak adds. "And you just can't get any luckier than that."
Please enjoy the performance video from his show at The Keswick Theatre
You are now Tuned In to Chris Isaak
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